Soare: more choice to the consumer

Passing a two-day course will enable accountants to start offering probate law services to the public, after the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) yesterday officially received the power to regulate probate and licence alternative business structures (ABS).

The institute plans to issue the first licences next month, saying that over 250 firms have already expressed an interest in accreditation, with more expected to follow.

ICAEW-regulated firms will need to become ABSs if not all of their principals and owners are individually authorised to do probate work.

The ICAEW has advised its members that to be individually authorised, they will need to provide evidence of attending a course and passing a two-hour assessment, containing a mix of short questions and multiple-choice questions, in which they get a score of at least 50%. The recommended course is a two-day offering from SWAT UK, the stated aim of which is “to provide a good understanding of the basics of probate and estate administration”.

ICAEW-regulated probate firms will be subject to the Legal Ombudsman’s jurisdiction and must carry minimum professional indemnity insurance of £500,000 per claim.

The ICAEW’s chief executive, Michael Izza, said: “ICAEW applied to become a regulator and licensing authority for probate and ABSs because we believe that this will open up the marketplace to the consumer, who might want their accountant to handle legal services too. We also knew that members were keen to offer these services and having more providers should make the market more competitive.”

Vernon Soare, the institute’s executive director, added that the move is “practical evidence of the role that the Legal Services Board is playing in transforming the provision of legal services and giving more choice to the consumer”.

Despite its claims to be the first non-legal body to become a regulator of probate, the ICAEW is actually the third, after the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland, which have both been approved regulators for several years.

However, for different reasons neither has actually exercised the right to grant members the right to conduct probate.

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