Analysis: Law Society’s beef with the ICAEW’s probate plans

IN A LETTER SEEN by Accountancy Age sent to the Legal Services Board chief executive Chris Kenny, Law Society chief executive Des Hudson (pictured) outlined concerns with the ICAEW’s application to become a licensing body for the grant of probate.

Its concerns, and reasons why it believes the institute should not be allowed to become a licensing body under its current application, are outlined here:

A key part of the Legal Services Act, which sets out to open up the provision of legal services, is that the representative and regulatory functions of a licensing body must be separate. The Law Society believes the ICAEW’s application fails to achieve this. The ICAEW’s plan for an ‘independent’ probate committee would still be answerable to its Professional Standards Board, itself answerable to Council. This structure does not create a lay majority. The arrangement proposed by the ICAEW “contrast starkly” with that of other legal regulators.

The Law Society believes the ICAEW’s arguments that they will only deal with a small number of licenses is “unconvincing” and is “inconsistent” with its other comments that the move would increase competition.

The Law Society accuses the institute of proposing arrangements that would “give rise to a regime that leads to differential, inconsistent and anti-competitive arrangements among probate practitioners”.

The society warns the Legal Service Board that allowing the institute through on its current proposals would make the board seem “so concerned to encourage new entrants to the market that it will ignore the philosophy behind the Act”.

The application significantly underestimates the range of work undertaken in non-contentious probate, believes the society. Complex situations involving lifetime gifts, pre-owned asset and guardianship are becoming more frequent.

With the ICAEW able form alternative business structures (ABSs), where accountants and lawyers can work together more freely, where probate can be offered by such firms.

If there is poor service, the society believes it would be more difficult for the public to gauge where to complain if there is poor service.

The ICAEW’s riposte to the Law Society’s concerns can be found here

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