ICAEW and Law Society clash on probate

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The ICAEW and the Law Society have locked horns over the right of accountants to be licenced for probate work.

In December 2012, the ICAEW formally applied to the Legal Services Board to become a regulator for probate work carried out by alternative business structures (ABS). The institute sought only the right to accredit firms wishing to carry out non-contentious probate work in which all the principals and owners are individually authorised to carry out probate work, or a smaller number of specialists are working within an ABS.

In its response to the LBS, the Law Society argued that the ICAEW did not have the same separation between its regulatory and representative functions that other approved licensing authorities for probate work.

ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza recently blogged that he was...

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I thought from previous discussions this was dead in the water.

Surely accountants have far greater concern than to be involved in these matters unless by invitation.

The constant gnawing at fields that are not "direct" accountancy will, if we are not careful end in another fiasco akin to AA. 


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To me probate would be a possible additional service that some clients might appreciate. We are capable of doing the work (but it is time consuming). Some firms may want to specialise in elder care and related matters in which case it is logical to take on probate work as the final service for the client. I can see no reason why we should be barred from the field.

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Speaking as a private client tax partner in an accountancy practice I have acted as an executor, making personal probate applications, for many clients, some of whom I've acted for for up to 40 years. Dealing with these clients regularly, and seeing their families grow up, surely puts me in a better position to deal with their finances than a solicitor they've only seen once in a blue moon.


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Probate is easy

Why shouldn't we be able to probate work? When I have prepared probate forms for family and friends (no charges made, so allowed), it has been easy. The forms can be completed from downloaded forms. If there were to be problems or complications, then I would certainly go to a lawyer but in the majority of cases, the process presents no problems. I have come across cases where lawyers have done the probate (usually their unqualified clerks!) and missed areas of IHT saving but still charged far too much for completing a couple of forms.

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I could not agree more.  Recently a solicitor had even done the 7 years tax affairs to the date of death.

HMRC asked us to check these (I wonder why) and to cap it all the solicitor charged to convey a property from a beneficiary to the beneficiarie's daughter, including £1.5k stamp duty.  A deed of arrangement would have achieved the same and saved the client (the beneficiary) some £2k.


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Probate work

 Yes the accounting side of Probate, with associated tax work is straightforward. The forms are straightforward compared to many other HMRC forms- including Tax Returns.

 Most competent accountants, and lay persons would have no difficulty with them. Indeed where the clients involved are long term clients of the accountant, the accountant would problably make a better fist of it than a solicitor. That is my practical experience.

 But, there is always a but:-

 Probate, wills, and trusts, and or inheritance law, is like a minefield. It is uncommon easy to put your foot in the wrong place, with disasterous results.

Especially as the value of the estate is no guide to its aggravation (on the Richter scale) factor,

 So the safest deal is to find a solicitor you may trust but who does not indulge in necrophilia, and strike up a working relationship with that solicitor.

 Unless you are one of those members of our profession who also indulges in aformentioned necrophilia.(Screwing the dead)


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 You found a solicitor who can manage his petty cash? Wow

 preserve this endangered species.


 Often the difference between a qualfied accountant and an unqualified one  is, not only that the Qualified knows where to look for the answer but, more importantly, he/she is able to recognise there is a question.

  So, yes 95% of probate is straightforward accountancy practice work, but ask yourself: Are you really qualified to recognise a member of the 5% club?

Be wise as well as clever. 

Leave the "Law" law to those that carry the eye watering expensive PI insurance for it.



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Law Soc Gazette Comments

In the interests of balance, I looked at the LS Gazette to see what lawyers made of the spat (http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/accountants-challenged-society-over-flawed-application).  Fewer responses, but it looks like some lawyers actually think they are better at law than accountants are.  I guess they feel embattled because everyone is now free to muscle in on their territory.  Perhaps it would be a bit like Slaughter & May setting up an auditing arm or Clifford Chance offering to complete clien ts' self assessment returns.





Read all about itSubmitted by Slave of the LS on Mon, 08/07/2013 - 06:41.

One terribly run professional organisation is furious that another professional institute seeks to obtain a good deal for its members, it's a disgrace.

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It is ironic, is it not, thatSubmitted by Anon on Mon, 08/07/2013 - 10:59.

It is ironic, is it not, that one the professional bodies for accountants is able to rebut an attack by the Law Society by stating that "primacy of public interest has been built into the DNA of the accountancy profession"? The implication of course that primacy of public interest forms no part of the DNA of the solicitors' profess... sorry, Legal Industry.

And even more ironic that the body responsible for changing a solicitors' profession whose DNA put the public interest first into a legal industry whose DNA puts profits for ABS shareholders first (with a nod to the liberal lefties by having a few glossy leaflets about "inclusion" and "diversity" and having a liberal lefty Legal Ombudsman) is the very same Law Society!

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"...emerged last week"Submitted by Alan Foster on Mon, 08/07/2013 - 11:32.

The Law Society letter to LSB was dated 10 May and ICAEW's response was 11 June.

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Ever tried making a complaint about an accountant...Submitted by Ian on Mon, 08/07/2013 - 16:00.

... complaints investigation in the accountancy profession is a major farce, and for that reason alone this application should be given short shrift.

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