The Legal Services Board (LSB) has refused to ‘de-designate’ an accountancy body as a probate regulator over concerns that its members are now practising unregulated.
The evidence indicated that members of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) were continuing to deliver probate services despite its regulatory regime shutting down at the end of 2021.
We first reported in August 2020 that the ACCA planned to withdraw from legal services regulation, in the first move of its kind.
Last October, the LSB approved CILEx Regulation’s application to take over the regulation of the members who wanted to continue handling reserved probate work.
ACCA ceased to authorise members for non-contentious probate activities on 31 December, having submitted an application to the LSB to revoke its legal services regulations and recommend to the Lord Chancellor that he de-designate the ACCA as an approved regulator under the Legal Services Act.
Its general regulations were also to change to require individuals and firms regulated by ACCA in its capacity as an accountancy regulator and who continue reserved legal activities, to be authorised by an approved legal regulator.
At the time, the ACCA authorised 99 individuals and 78 firms to undertake probate activities. The plan was that, by the end of the 2021, they would have transferred to CILEx Regulation or another regulator, or stopped doing probate work.
However, last week the LSB revealed that it had rejected the application because “ACCA does not have active agreement or commitment from a significant number of ACCA probate practitioners and firms, whose authorisation by ACCA expired on 31 December 2021, and have not been authorised by an alternative approved regulator, that they have ceased providing probate services”.
The websites of a number of individuals and firms “appear to indicate that they are still providing probate services”, the oversight regulator added.
“Overall, the result is that there remains an unacceptable risk that probate services will be provided by those ACCA probate practitioners and firms who have not been authorised by [CILEx Regulation] or another regulator, and continue to practise probate activities unauthorised, if the LSB approves ACCA’s proposed alterations to withdraw from legal services regulation.”
This meant the application was “premature” and the ACCA had to take “all necessary steps to address these issues” before reapplying.
An ACCA spokeswoman told Legal Futures: “We are now working through the necessary steps to provide further assurances to the LSB that affected authorised persons have either ceased or transferred to another approved regulator as we still intend to withdraw all regulatory arrangements for probate activities.”
David Pope, director of operations at CILEx Regulation, said: “The decision notice is, of course, a matter between the LSB and ACCA. In the meantime, we are supporting approximately 70 members who wish to transfer to CILEx Regulation from ACCA in line with our required standards.”
Those who transfer are known as CILEX-ACCA firms – and are not allowed to hold client money or carry out estate administration – while individuals are ‘CILEx Practitioner (ACCA-Probate)’.