Accountants should be excluded from Legal Services Board (LSB) plans to reserve will-writing and estate administration, their professional body has argued.
Michael Izza, chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, criticised the LSB for not taking “a hard enough look at work already done by accountants in this area”.
Responding to yesterday’s announcement of the next steps in making will-writing and estate administration reserved legal activities, Mr Izza said: “In our experience, and judging by the very small number of complaints we have had in this area over the years, our members act with integrity and in the best interest of their clients when dealing with estate administration and will writing.
“Our preferred solution is to use existing regulatory frameworks for oversight of will-writing and estate administration.”
Mr Izza acknowledged that if the LSB’s recommendations are accepted, the ICAEW will need to becoming a licensing authority so that its members can continue to do this work “with the least possible extra regulation”; it is currently consulting on plans to become a licensing authority for reserved probate work.
“We will continue to work with LSB, hopefully to prevent the need for additional licensing, but also to put any necessary arrangements in place,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Law Society welcomed the announcement, but was unable to say whether it will allow the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to extend its regulatory reach to include will-writers.
The SRA said in April that it would like to regulate will-writers, but it needs the Law Society council to agree. The society said it will need to consider the matter in detail.
More broadly, Law Society president Lucy Scott Moncrieff said: “We urge the LSB and government to proceed swiftly to ensure that in will writing, estate administration and probate, consumers are protected from bad advice and untrained providers.”
Elisabeth Davies, chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said she was delighted that the LSB has listened to the evidence of poor standards in will-writing and sales practices that its work had uncovered. “There’s a powerful consensus of support for this move and it’s striking how representatives of consumer groups, charities, solicitors and will-writing businesses are all convinced that regulation is needed. The message is clear – consumers are already suffering and the LSB’s proposals need to be acted on without any delay.”
In a statement, the Society of Will Writers also supported the move, saying: “The regulation of the sector will give all providers of these services a level playing field. This will be welcomed by professional will writers who offer a good service to their clients but have been unable to gain the respect they deserve.”