The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has licensed 48 alternative business structures to carry out probate work in its first six months as regulator, it has emerged.
Since it awarded an ABS license to top 20 accountancy firm Kingston Smith on 1 October 2014, the ICAEW has authorised a further 26 non-ABS firms (meaning all the principals have qualified to conduct probate work).
Peter James, head of regulatory policy at the ICAEW, said the totals were double what the institute expected its first six months as a licensing authority for probate services. A total of 100 applications were received.
“A number of firms were already specialised in estate administration, so this was a natural extension of their practice,” Mr James said. “Others were tax practices, where there was a natural association with inheritance tax. For general practices, it was an opportunity to extend themselves.”
Mr James said that 28 of the licences were awarded to sole practices, 43 to those with two to 10 principals and three to those with more than 10 principals.
“The extent to which firms are importing lawyers is unclear, but it is likely that the bigger firms are considering it as an option.”
In a separate development, Mr James said the ICAEW was overhauling its governance arrangements, following a review by Whitehall mandarin Sir Chris Kelly.
Mr James said that in the future there would be parity between lay and accountant members of the ICAEW’s committees and lay majority in its disciplinary tribunals.
However, he said the ICAEW would not insist that chairs were lay – the source of conflict in the past between some legal regulators and the Legal Services Board (LSB).
The ICAEW is creating a new body to oversee the whole structure, the ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB), which will also have a lay parity. The chair, who could be an accountant, will be chosen by an independent selection panel headed by former Simmons & Simmons senior partner Dame Janet Gaymer.
“The IRB will sit within the ICAEW as a membership body but no officer will sit on it, and no officer or council member be involved in selection.
“It’s a slightly different model to what the LSB is aspiring to, but with the same outcomes in terms of independence,” Mr James added. “We believe it is fit for purpose.”
- Sir Michael Snyder, the snior partner of Kingston Smith and co-chairman of the government advisory body, the Professional and Business Services Council, is the keynote speaker at next week’s Legal Futures Regulation and Compliance conference. Tickets are still available. Click here for details.