The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has begun its second application to the Legal Services Board for a probate services licence, with takeup expected to be high among small accountancy firms.
The institute announced its intention to apply for the licence last week. It dropped its original application two years ago as at the time there was a requirement to contribute to the LSB’s setup costs.
In a survey of 2,500 small accountancy practices questioned by the institute, 600 said they were interested in offering a probate service. Licences would be granted to individual accountants, rather than the firm, and applicants would need to pass an examination or complete a course, with the details still to be confirmed and subject to approval by the LSB.
A Law Society spokesman said: ‘It is important that successful applications [for probate licences] include the same consumer and public protection requirements as those required of solicitors. This was not the case with the ICAEW's original application. We will be studying this latest application to ensure compliance with the regulations.’
ICAEW head of regulatory policy Peter Burton said: ‘Accountancy firms see undertaking probate work as filling a gap in the service they provide to their clients, having advised on inheritance tax planning and acted as trustees of the estate. They cannot do the middle part, probate work, unless instructed by a solicitors’ firm. That seems to us an anomaly.’