Probate: hundreds of accountancy firms keen to compete

Chartered accountants are set to compete with lawyers for probate work after the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) signalled its intention to apply for the right to undertake reserved probate work.

An ICAEW survey of 2,500 small practices found that around a quarter were interested in offering the service.

If successful in its application to the Legal Services Board (LSB), the institute will join the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland in being approved to grant members the right to conduct probate.

However, the recent research into reserved legal activities by Professor Stephen Mayson (see story) said that neither of these two accountancy bodies have yet authorised any members to provide probate services.

The ICAEW considered seeking authorisation in relation to probate two years ago but backed away because of fears over intrusive LSB regulation and the possibility of having to contribute to the board’s set-up costs.

But earlier this week, director of professional standards Vernon Soare told the ICAEW’s council that the cost was no longer an issue, while the worries over working with the Legal Services Board had also dissipated.

Individuals, rather than firms, would be licensed, and might have to take an exam or attend a course to gain authorisation.

Imelda Moffat, secretary to the ICAEW’s legal services working party, told Legal Futures: “We are at the early stages on a long journey.” The hope is to gain approval from the LSB next year.

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