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Probate News, issue 13

Issue 13 contains an update on guidance for banks, new FAQs from HM Courts and Tribunals Service and a reminder to prepare early for your personal indemnity insurance renewal.

Prepare for our Price and Service Transparency compliance review

We published our Best Practice Guide to Price and Service Transparency in June last year. This was in response to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)’s drive to increase consumer engagement in the legal services market.

While implementation of the Guide is currently voluntary, the CMA is asking legal services regulators to address the issues outlined in its 2016 report in earnest. We therefore need to assess whether this voluntary approach is likely to deliver the CMA’s objectives or if it is necessary to roll out the requirements on a mandatory basis through regulations.

We will be conducting research to look at how firms provide fee and service information, for example via their websites.

Ahead of this, we recommend you review the Best Practice Guide to check you are incorporating as many of the recommendations as possible. Here are some of the updates you should consider making to your website and communications material such as brochures and engagement letters.

  • State your professional indemnity insurance details (67% of firms did not include this information at our last review).
  • Make it clear you are accredited for probate by ICAEW – 42% of firms had not published this at our last review. Use our accreditation to market your services and build trust with potential clients.
  • Add staff profiles including experience, qualifications and specialisms. Give an indication of a pricing tier for each advisor.
  • Give clear descriptions of the probate services you offer – only half of firms had published this at our last review. Clients are much more likely to contact you if they know you offer the service they are looking for.
  • Publish your complaints procedure and information on the probate compensation scheme. This should include how to refer complaints to ICAEW and the Legal Services Ombudsman. By being clear and transparent about the formal procedures that are in place, you can give potential clients reassurance that you are a trusted advisor. Another valuable marketing tool.
  • Tell your clients how you charge - 95% of firms had not published this at our last review. You could think about using some of the wording below, depending on your pricing structures:

    Our probate fees are calculated using an hourly rate (£XX).

    We will also add VAT and there may be some extra costs like payments to third parties which will be added to your final bill.

    Make an appointment for a free consultation and we will discuss the complexities of your case and give you a quote / pricing scale / a pricing example.

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has approved changes to ICAEW's regulatory arrangements

The LSB's approval is a key step to ensure ICAEW's compliance with the LSB's revised internal governance rules for regulators of legal services.

New guidance for banks on client accounts

A number of probate firms have found some banks have recently been reluctant to open multiple client accounts, despite firms being required to do so under ICAEW’s Client Money Regulations. This appears to be a problem for both accountancy and legal firms and follows recent updates to Anti-Money Laundering Regulations.

ICAEW has worked with UK Finance (the financial services trade association) to clarify the position for accountants and lawyers, including taking equivalence for the AML supervisory powers of ICAEW and other accountancy and legal bodies.

In May the Joint Money Laundering Steering Group of finance bodies issued in draft a new Annex V to Part 5 Chapter 1 of their AML Guidance for comment which closed on June 10.

Annex V sets out more clearly the considerations the banks should have when dealing with accountancy and legal firms and should make this process easier. Firms that continue to have difficulty in this area should draw the attention of their branch to Annex V and follow up with ICAEW’s Technical Advisory team if this is still a problem.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service FAQs

HMCTS has published a list of FAQs for probate practitioners covering online applications, paper applications, IHT queries and more.

Probate assessment now online

If you have colleagues who may be thinking of becoming accredited for probate, they may be interested to hear that the probate assessment can now be carried out online.

The assessment is still done under exam conditions, with online invigilation or ‘proctoring’. No specialist equipment is required and candidates will be taken through the process well in advance. Otherwise everything is the same as the in-person exam: a two-hour assessment with a mixture of multiple choice and short answer questions. The pass threshold remains at 50%.

This may be the ideal for time for furloughed staff to consider using the time to train in new areas such as probate work and you can find out more about the course below. It should be noted that doing the on-line course and sitting the assessment are permitted for furloughed staff.

Requirement to publish disciplinary information

We now publish historical disciplinary information on our website as required by our oversight body, the Legal Services Board. The disclosure policy is 5 years from date of tribunal/committee finding. Pending cases are not disclosed unless there is a temporary suspension.

Are your firm details up to date?

Please update us on any changes to these or any other changes to your firm structure by completing the standing data form and returning it to regulatorysupport@icaew.com

You must notify us of any changes to the structure of your firm within 10 business days. The annual return cannot be used for this purpose.

How changes to firm structure can affect eligibility

A seemingly straightforward change to your firm’s structure, or the appointment of a new principal in your firm, could mean your firm is no longer eligible to carry out probate work.

Guidance on the replacement of affidavits with statements of truth

The President of the Family Division of the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary has published the following guidance:

District Probate Registrars have been authorised to allow statements of truth to be used as an alternative to affidavits for the following applications and processes in the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987 – 12 (1), 16, 19, 25 (2), 26, 32 (2), 44 (12), 46 (2) & (4), 47 (4) & (6), 48 (2)a, 50 (2), 51, 52, 53, 54 (3), 55 (2) until 30 July 2020.

This guidance is issued to help non-contentious probate business continue while social distancing measures are in place.

Consideration will be given to making this rule change permanent by Statutory Instrument at a future date.

Our annual fee consultation is open

Please let us know your thoughts by 31 August 2020.

Latest updates can be found in Talk Probate

Please look out for the latest updates which will be posted first in Talk Probate, our online probate community. The community has a new, easy login process and we strongly recommend updating your settings to ensure you are immediately notified of any new announcements.

Updates from around ICAEW

Professional Indemnity Insurance: when is your renewal due?

There has been a hardening of the PII market over the last 18 months with some insurers withdrawing from the accountants’ market completely. It is recommended that firms prepare as early as possible for their renewal.

New web page: icaew.com/regulatorynews