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Professional clearance not available - what if?

I have a new client where their previous accountant has sadly passed away.

Didn't find your answer?

Has anyone come across this issue where the previous accountant has passed away or is no longer able to provide professional clearance?

I am sensitive to the fact that it might not be appropriate to send a professional clearance letter, which maybe received by a family member, cause distress and not be something they are able to reply to.

However I also don't want to just ignore this part of the onboarding process.

Any practical suggestions would be gratefully received.

Replies (19)

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By Accountant A
25th Nov 2019 11:24

What does your professional body advise?

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Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
25th Nov 2019 11:31

There is maybe an opportunity to acquire an entire block of fees, if local, and you may also be able to help out the family of the deceased.

Perhaps send letter for clearance re this one client but also write a covering letter in a far more sympathetic style/condolences, and say ask if the estate wishes assistance with transitioning clients.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Roland195
25th Nov 2019 11:38

Don't forget to ask if there is a Volvo for sale too

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By Roland195
25th Nov 2019 11:36

Anytime this has occurred in the past, I have always regretted not simply proceeding without especially if there are dead.. erm time limits approaching. If it is a case involving VAT, PAYE or CIS then even more so.

You will likely have departed the mortal coil yourself before you get a response from a nominated alternate assuming there even is one.

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Bramble
By Chris.Mann
25th Nov 2019 11:42

Given the circumstances, I think it's vital to demonstrate professional respect, for the deceased individual.
I genuinely hope that we don't exist in a cold, inconsiderate, environment, where we can't take a moment, to consider others, in our society.
As DJKL suggests, there may also be an opportunity to assist the wider family, as regards the disposal of a practice.

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RLI
By lionofludesch
25th Nov 2019 11:59

The client definitely has the right to be represented and you should not be discouraged from accepting the work. Don't expect "clearance" - whoever replies won't be able to give a credible view. What you're looking for is information.

DJKL suggests a practical approach - I would also be writing to HMRC to see what they know and, at this stage in the tax year, priming them for a reasonable excuse for a possible late return. If they're tardy in replying - well, that helps the reasonable excuse case.

My own experience is that, despite the grieving process, the family are usually keen to put an end to the winding up of the estate and may well see your approach as an offer of help rather than an annoyance.

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By adf2410
26th Nov 2019 00:56

I was in this position three or four years ago. A local accountant died suddenly, and a mutual friend helped with the dispersal of his business. The mutual friend (not an accountant) contacted all of the clients and gave them windows of time when she would be at his house to see them and give them all their records and the accountant's files back.

She also gave out our flyer and business cards. One by one, many of them got in touch, and they turned up with their own records for the year, plus the large permanent file in which were records of tax returns, letters etc. going back to the mid-80s.

I didn't ask anyone for professional clearance in that situation. The clients had made the decision and I had the working papers for previous years. I told the clients I would honour his fees for the first year. I haven't felt able to increase them yet - the clients are all so lovely and well trained, but paying way under market rate! Must sort that...

PS no Volvo...

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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
26th Nov 2019 12:09

Why dont you ask your Institute for their advice on how to proceed or better still your professional indemnity people. This is the kind of question that they would have met previously.

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By geoffmw1
27th Nov 2019 13:23

If the letter is correctly worded it is not a problem.
In the circumstances I would probably ask to go through the files to enable you to obtain the info that you need and also to decide whwther you are willing to accept the new client. Clearance is not the right description of handover info.

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By carnmores
27th Nov 2019 15:59

for goodness sake dont get tied up by silly rules press ahead

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Replying to carnmores:
RLI
By lionofludesch
27th Nov 2019 16:18

carnmores wrote:

for goodness sake dont get tied up by silly rules press ahead

Agree.

You don't need some dead person's permission to act.

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By JDBENJAMIN
28th Nov 2019 10:44

I've been in this situation before. Just treat it as if the accountant was not dead, and follow the standard procedure for when you get no reply. Then you can eventually accept appointment. It is not your job to get into trouble for not doing a professional enquiry.

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Replying to JDBENJAMIN:
RLI
By lionofludesch
28th Nov 2019 13:29

Previous incumbuent is unlikely to complain.

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By Matrix
29th Nov 2019 06:58

I have had prospects where they have asked me not to contact the family since the previous accountant has died, has a terminal illness or had a nervous breakdown. I respect their request since it is compassionate to do so and to do otherwise would not be great for the new relationship. I exercise my professional judgement in deciding whether to accept appointment. You just about get by with no handover info, obviously not ideal.

Why others choose to follow a set of rules without exercising discretion is beyond me.

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By Michael Davies
29th Nov 2019 10:21

I am running my practice down,and three clients in the last year moved on.
I did not receive a clearance letter for any of them.
Three different firms.
Very discourteous.
I had provided the hand over information required to the client pre move and presumably the new agents considered that was sufficient to move on.
The modern way I guess.
Bugs me though.

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By dmmarler
29th Nov 2019 10:50

If they were with a professional body they should have declared their continuity partner with their practice renewal each year, so their professional body should be helpful point for information.

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Replying to dmmarler:
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By Matrix
29th Nov 2019 10:55

This is not an ICAEW requirement. Not sure about other bodies. In the real world if you don’t have anyone to contact, you don’t have anyone to contact.

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By pauljohnston
29th Nov 2019 12:13

You have a lot of good answers here. I would suggest that you put a note on the file stating what you have done and why.

Any good inspector will understand the delemia

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By carnmores
01st Dec 2019 13:13

they are an an anchronism in GPDR days. you cant say anything . i send a letter say i have been asked to take over and am doing so so please can i have the following docs etc

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