Late last year, the Legal Services Board (LSB) agreed that ICAEW should be a regulator of probate services and a licensing authority for Alternative Business Structures (ABS), subject to approval from the Lord Chancellor.
The ICAEW website (here) said that this is an important step by the LSB to open up the provision of legal services. In making this recommendation, the LSB has recognised that consumers can receive legal services from appropriately regulated ICAEW Chartered Accountants that are of equal quality to traditional providers: in other words, lawyers.
ICAEW is now working to provide support and advice to accountancy firms interested in providing probate services and becoming ABSs. You can expect that the first batch of applications will be approved in Spring 2014.
Opportunities for ICAEW Chartered Accountants include:
- allowing new business structures between lawyers, accountants and other professionals (such as IFAs); and
- allowing accountants to provide reserved legal services which were previously restricted to lawyers.
With Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) emerging every five minutes or so in the legal profession, you can understand Eduardo Reyes asking Can accountants change the legal sector? See Law Society Gazette article here. He recalls the impact accountants had the last time they took aim at the legal sector when it was widely assumed that being both bigger than lawyers, and closer to clients through ongoing audit and consulting activities, the accountants were a huge threat. But it wasn’t. Nor did the advent of US law firms in London make much difference.
So, will it happen this time?
Nearly 6 years ago, with a lawyer colleague, I first looked at the idea of accountants working on probate work. We concluded that accountants doing probate work need the following and much more:
- Marketing materials, such as Bizezia publications to show that the firm knows about Probate.
- Engagement letters to cover the work required – see Contract Engine.
- Standard letters and forms.
- A web-based calculator to determine the fee to be charged for the work to be done.
- Web-based calculators showing the amount of IHT payable – see Calculators and Evaluators.
- An automated system to show who is eligible to be the executor or administrator.
- An automated calculator to illustrate the disposition of an estate on intestacy.
- Guidance on best-practice Estate accounting format and software to use.
Please contact me at email@example.com to let me know whether you are interested in your firm becoming an ABS following the LSB/ICAEW announcement.