Members of ICAEW will now be able to register to provide these reserved legal activities and set up ABSs under the terms of the Legal Services Act
In his blog Michael Izza, ICAEW Chief Executive, noted:
‘This is the culmination of over two years of work for ICAEW and creates new opportunities for our members in practice who want to offer probate services and also create new integrated businesses - Alternative Business Structures. They will shortly be able to apply to do so through ICAEW which is great news for us and for the profession.
Alternative Business Structures (ABS) can bring together ICAEW Chartered Accountants with solicitors and other professionals. ICAEW applied to become a regulator and licensing authority for probate and ABSs because we believe that this will open up the marketplace to the consumer, who might want their accountant to handle legal services too. We also knew that members were keen to offer these services and having more providers should make the market more competitive. Ours is the first non-legal body to become a regulator of probate.’
The more detailed background briefing on the main ICAEW website explains the position as follows:
‘In 2011, ICAEW explored the possibility of licensing firms for the reserved legal service of probate. In order for it to secure the power to do this, it had to become an approved regulator and licensing authority under the Legal Services Act 2007. In February 2012 it entered into negotiations with the Legal Services Board (LSB) and, in December that year, formally applied to the LSB. The LSB finally gave its approval in December 2013 and, in March 2014, the Lord Chancellor moved to recommend the designations.
In order to effect the designations for probate and alternative business structures (ABSs), it has been necessary to put secondary legislation through parliament, which has proved to be a protracted process and taken far longer than ICAEW and the LSB had expected. The summer recess could have meant the designations being postponed until October or later.
On 15 July, however, the House of Commons approved ICAEW’s role as approved regulator, which came into force as law on 17 July; and on 22 July, the statutory instrument approving ICAEW’s role as a licensing authority was laid and will become law on 14 August
Although some further steps need to be finally signed off, these are expected to be dealt with in time for ICAEW to be able to start inviting applications from member firms from late September.
Earlier this year a number of firms kindly volunteered to act as pilots to test the ICAEW application process and, following their experience and recommendations, the application forms were modified. The revised application forms should be available from September following their final approval by the ICAEW Probate Committee. In the meantime, sample forms are available from this page which give members an idea of the information that will be required.
Over 250 firms have already expressed interest in accreditation and we believe this number will grow significantly once the opportunities afforded by probate and the use of ABSs are more fully understood.’
You can get more information about qualification criteria and see copies of draft application forms on the ICAEW website by clicking here.