Accountants launch bid to become ABS regulator, with 100 applications in the offing

Print This Post

18 December 2012


Soare: widening consumer choice

Accountants could start offering reserved probate services to the public as soon as next autumn, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) said yesterday as it submitted its application to become a regulator of probate services and alternative business structures (ABSs).

At least 100 firms of accountants are likely to apply to become ABSs, according to the institute’s figures.

The ICAEW has also confirmed to Legal Futures that it will seek to regulate will-writing and estate administration should both of these become reserved activities following the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) forthcoming recommendation to the government.

Following consultation, the ICAEW has confirmed that it will take a twin-track approach to allow accountancy firms to do the work. They could become authorised firms – in which all principals and owners are individually authorised to conduct probate – or licensed bodies (the formal name for ABSs), in which not all principals and owners are authorised for probate.

Although the LSB has a year to consider the application, the ICAEW said “we hope to begin authorising and licensing firms in autumn 2013”. Research conducted for the application indicated that around 250 firms might seek accreditation from the ICAEW: 150 sole practitioners, who would have authorised firm status, and 100 larger practices, most of whom would look to become ABSs.

It told the LSB: “[Our application] will promote diversity in the legal services market by providing, for the first time, an opportunity for our members to enter the market and deliver probate services directly to consumers. It will enable our firms to provide a more integrated service to clients who seek the full range of probate services from one provider, facilitating more competitive pricing and creating greater efficiencies in service delivery.”

Vernon Soare, ICAEW executive director of professional standards, said: “As an experienced regulator I am confident that ICAEW will ensure its members and firms provide excellent probate services to the public. As the first professional accountancy body to apply to license alternative business structures, we recognise the importance of widening consumer choice in the legal services market and of protecting the consumer through effective regulation.”

The ICAEW will require accountants to undertake a course of three or four days to be eligible to undertake probate work, on the grounds that non-contentious probate work is “relatively straight forward, and are mindful of the fact that it is routinely undertaken by lay persons without formal training. We do not see non-contentious probate work as posing a risk to the administration of justice or the rule of law, and therefore do not consider that it necessitates substantial prior training”.

The institute has in part responded to criticism of the make-up of the new probate committee which will be responsible for overseeing the ICAEW’s work and which it had initially proposed would have a non-lay majority. In its response to the consultation, the Legal Services Consumer Panel had called for the committee to have a lay majority, in the spirit of the LSB’s internal governance rules for legal regulators, and the final application put forward a 50:50 split between lay and non-lay members.

The Law Society declined to respond to the consultation, saying that it would reserve its comments for when the LSB seeks views on the application.

 

Tags: , , , , ,



One Response to “Accountants launch bid to become ABS regulator, with 100 applications in the offing”

  1. “The ICAEW will require accountants to undertake a course of three or four days to be eligible to undertake probate work, on the grounds that non-contentious probate work is “relatively straight forward, and are mindful of the fact that it is routinely undertaken by lay persons without formal training”

    Well that’s OK then – lets forget formal qualifications like Licensed Probate Practitioners, Solicitors and STEP members which are clearly not needed as long as you don’t carry out contentious work – Sorry is that my ignorance showing?

  2. NIgel Bradley on December 21st, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Leave a comment

* Denotes required field

All comments will be moderated before posting. Please see our Terms and Conditions

Legal Futures Blog

GDPR and the rise of ‘datanapping’ – the new threat to the pockets of law firms

Nigel Wright

You’ve heard about ransomware – a hacker infiltrates your IT systems, locking them down until you pay a ransom. Some studies now estimate that over 50% of businesses have experienced this type of attack in the last year, and it’s particularly prevalent within the legal sector. Previously, firms could protect themselves by having a solid disaster recovery plan in place to ensure they can get back up and running in the event of a disruption. However, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – the new EU-wide regime which comes in effect on 25 May 2018, irrespective of Brexit – means that this approach alone is no longer adequate and security measures must be strengthened to prevent attacks.

April 21st, 2017