Survey reveals strong appetite from members to offer probate and legal services to clients.
In a world where audit is declining and compliance work is becoming increasingly automated, ACCA is exploring new activities and opportunities for practising members. We are currently looking at the options to invest in licensing and regulating our members for legal services.
The ability to offer legal services complements the professional services that firms already provide to clients, such as inheritance tax, estate management and wealth management. As qualified accountants, ACCA members have relevant expertise and experience to undertake work in this area, and your knowledge of clients’ financial and taxation affairs allows you to provide effective and efficient continuity of service to your personal clients.
Furthermore, ACCA can establish a proportionate and sustainable framework for legal services regulation and oversight by the Legal Services Board (LSB) through our existing regulatory and disciplinary systems, without the need to develop bespoke arrangements for legal services which would add complexity and cost. This contrasts with the work of insolvency which requires far greater specialism and a high degree of standardisation in the regulation and discipline of insolvency practitioners.
In November 2016, ACCA invited members in practice to help determine which legal services authorisations we should invest in licensing and regulating for our members. The online questionnaire about Reserved Legal Activities and Alternative Business Structures attracted 448 responses and we would like to thank all members who took the time to respond. The findings from the survey show there is a definite appetite for ACCA applying to the LSB to regulate legal services, and towards members in practice being able to participate in the legal services market in England and Wales.
Demand for probate The survey shows a clear demand for probate, with 81% of respondents indicating that ACCA should apply to regulate probate activities. ACCA has been an approved regulator for the reserved legal activity of probate since 2009 and we will now progress an application to the LSB to gain approval for our regulatory arrangements in respect of probate activities. Subject to the successful outcome of this application, we expect to be in a position to authorise individuals and firms for probate services in 2018.
Members seeking to become probate practitioners will be required to achieve and maintain competence to undertake probate activities. ACCA, or another training provider, will provide relevant skills training and CPD update courses, as well as guidance and information. We will start to provide support and guidance during 2017. Many of the Professional Courses offering in 2017 on IHT will also reference probate services.
Oaths and notarial activities The survey also shows a positive response to the administration of oaths and significant interest in notarial activities, with 68% of respondents indicating ACCA should regulate the administration of oaths and 64% notarial activities. These legal services are also compatible with the work of an accountant in practice and reflect the trust placed in accountants.
There is also some interest in ACCA regulating the exercise of rights of audience, the conduct of litigation and reserved instrument activities; however, there is less demand for these areas. As a result, ACCA will look at the impact on our regulatory procedures and resources of an application for approved regulator status for further reserved legal activities, in particular the administration of oaths and notarial activities.
The findings from the survey suggest there is currently little interest among ACCA members in practice in becoming an Alternative Business Structure (ABS). While ACCA will continue to monitor developments in this area, we do not intend at this stage to apply to the LSB to become a licensing authority for ABS.
CPD events - inheritance tax You may be interested in these two regional network events: