ICAEW hits back against Law Society’s probate criticism

A STRONG RIPOSTE has been issued by the ICAEW against criticisms of its plans to become a probate licensing body.

The institute’s professional standards director, Vernon Soare, has rebutted claims by the Law Society that the ICAEW’s application to license probate services fails to address issues of regulatory oversight, the complexity of probate, and how clearly the public would understand its complaints process.

Writing to the Legal Services Board chief executive Chris Kenny, Soare said that the Law Society’s observations are “inconsistent with the objectives of the [Legal Services] Act or are disproportionate to the relevant consumer and public risk”.

Soare rebutted concerns that the institute would not be wholly separate from the probate regulatory function. He said that an ICAEW probate committee, with a majority of lay members, would be accountable to the Legal Services Board, not the institute.

Some of his strongest words were reserved for the society’s concerns about professional self-interest overcoming the public interest.

“In contrast” to the legal profession, Soare noted, the “primacy” of public interest has been written into the 1880 founding ICAEW charter and has characterised member conduct ever since.

“This is not a new concept introduced by the Legal Services Act but something built into the DNA of the accounting profession for over a century,” he said in the letter.

The institute also pointed out that it was “rather irregular” for the Law Society to choose to comment on the ICAEW consultation after the period to respond had passed.

Soare’s letter also covered the society’s concerns on issues around professional indemnity insurance, accountants’ ability to manage the probate process, practice assurance reviews, and consumer rights.

Click here to view the ICAEW’s full response, and here for a roundup of the Law Society’s concerns

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