Chartered accountants will be able to carry out reserved probate work themselves, without the need to instruct a solicitor, from next month, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has said.
An order designating the ICAEW as an approved regulator for reserved probate services was approved by the House of Commons on Monday night.
Peter James, head of regulation at the ICAEW, said he estimated the time taken between the passing of an order and it taking effect would be three to four weeks, meaning that accountants could be regulated by mid-August.
He said that ICAEW members would be qualified to carry out non-contentious probate if they had taken the necessary top-up course and if they were sole practitioners or in firms where all the partners were members.
He said the ICAEW had estimated that around 250 firms would initially apply for the new rights.
Mr James said that by regulating probate work, the ICAEW would enable accountants to extend the “suite of services” they are able to offer in terms of estate administration.
“Two thousand of our firms do estate administration at the moment and probate is a natural adjunct to their services,” he said. “This will take away an annoying bit of administration. Currently accountants can only take estates so far before sending them to a solicitor. Instead of subcontracting the work, accountants will be able to do it themselves.”
Mr James said an order allowing the ICAEW to regulate alternative business structures (ABSs) could be laid in Parliament as early as this week. This will allow accountancy firms where not all of the principals and owners are authorised to undertake probate work, to still do it.
He said this would have “bigger business implications” than the order allowing the ICAEW to regulate probate. “If this does happen, we could perhaps start licensing ABSs in September,” he added.
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) has said that its members are still waiting for the right to carry out reserved probate and conveyancing work. A spokeswoman said yesterday that orders had been laid before Parliament but would not be voted on until the autumn.
The ICAEW expressed frustration earlier this month that its attempts to become a regulator both of probate services and ABSs had taken almost two and a half years. The regulator said it made its first formal approach to the Legal Services Board in February 2012.