New rules for the exchange of information between banks and solicitors administering an estate have been agreed by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), the Law Society and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).

The protocol ‘brings clarity to probate-related dealings between solicitors and banks by allowing solicitors to efficiently negotiate the different administrative procedures used by banks for releasing assets held by deceased customers’, the Law Society said today. It has been signed on behalf of Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Halifax, Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest and covers the handling of current, savings, credit card and unsecured loan accounts.

This latest initiative builds on protocols already drawn up by individual banks. The Society said it should help to prevent unnecessary delays and uncertainties when administering a deceased customer's bank accounts, helping to shield relatives of from further costs and stress at a very difficult time.

Law Society President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said: ‘Managing relationships with banks and building societies has long been a problematic aspect of probate practice. This new arrangement is a considerable achievement and we hope to see more banks participate in the protocol in the future.’

The Society warned that the protocol does not necessarily apply to investment, pensions or insurance matters, or to accounts held by associated companies or businesses.