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In this issue of Probate News, we ask you to tell us if you are still experiencing problems opening clients’ money bank accounts, we highlight the most common issue seen by the Probate Committee and we also share some useful information from the Legal Services Ombudsman to help you as you comply with the updated Probate Regulations.

Please tell us about issues you may be having with your bank 

Are you still having issues with opening client money accounts? Please tell us which bank or branch this relates to so that we can build a picture and contact the relevant banks or branches on your behalf. 

Have you checked changes to your firm structure haven’t affected its eligibility?

The Probate Committee has requested that we remind our firms to be careful to ensure changes to your firm structure do not affect your eligibility to carry out probate work. This is the most common disciplinary issue the committee sees. 

Our regulatory support team are available to talk through any changes you are planning to make before they happen to help you ensure your eligibility is not affected. 

Contact the team on +44(0)1908 546302 or by email regulatorysupport@icaew.com

Empowering consumers proposed statement of policy consultation

The Legal Services Board recently consulted on its Empowering consumers draft statement of policy. The purpose of the statement is to set expectations of approved legal services in the interests of the public and consumers. These are expressed as general expectations, principles and specific expectations and will apply as the regulators use regulatory arrangements and other appropriate activities to pursue them.

Compliance with new regulations

A reminder that firms should now be complying with the new Probate Regulations which mandate price and service transparency. If you haven’t yet carried out a review of your communications, you should do so as soon as possible to ensure you remain compliant with the changes.

Signposting complaints

The Legal Services Ombudsman has highlighted the high number of complaints that they receive prematurely ie, before the complainant has raised an issue with their service provider. One of the reasons cited was ‘a general lack of understanding about where the Legal Ombudsman fitted into the complaints process’.

More than half of complainants stated that they were not told about the Legal Services Ombudsman by their service provider. 

New Probate Regulations state that publishing complaints information is now mandatory. The ombudsman has published guidance on complaints information you should communicate to your clients and we recommend you follow this guidance to remain compliant. 

Give your view - changes to ICAEW’s disciplinary framework

Following our consultation last year, further changes have been made to the proposed update to ICAEW’s disciplinary framework.

The objectives of the proposed update are:

  1. To update and simplify the current disciplinary scheme to make it more accessible and understandable to all users.
  2. To separate the obligations and duties of all ICAEW members, affiliates, students and firms from the provisions which set out the processes to be followed.
  3. To make improvements to aspects of the current process to ensure that the disciplinary process works more efficiently and effectively, and continues to operate in the public interest.

The ICAEW Regulatory Board is consulting on these changes and welcomes your view. The consultation will close on 15 March 2022

Investment business licensing: expanding your services

Investment business covers a wide range of activities that accountancy firms might carry out as part of their broader client services. In the latest in our series on moving into new regulated areas, we look at what your firm needs to do when applying for a DPB (Investment Business) licence.

Quality assurance monitoring – updated December 2021

We have returned to our pre-COVID-19 review practices, including onsite reviews. When our scheduling team contacts you to confirm the review date, they will tell you whether the review will be onsite or desk-based. If an onsite visit is not possible, our scheduling team will discuss alternatives with you.

Probate application fee increase

Probate application fees have increased to £273 for applications made from 26 January 2022. The differential between the fees for applications by individuals and probate professionals has been removed.

In a recent meeting with ICAEW, other legal service regulators and representatives of probate professionals, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) acknowledged that the pandemic negatively impacted its ability to deliver an efficient and timely service. In response, HMCTS redeployed and recruited new staff and reported that this had reduced delays in its response times.

It was explained that the reason the differential between the fee for professional and personal applications is being removed is there is no significant difference in the cost of administering the two processes. Through further streamlining the process, HMCTS expect the changes linked to a single application fee will improve response times and the overall service provided to professional and lay applicants.

ICAEW welcomes the fact that the fees continue to reflect actual court costs. The plans for a banded fee structure based on the size of estate, which were proposed in 2018 and abandoned in 2019, are not being proceeded with.