Fee transparency to be mandated for probate accountants, says ICAEW

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is expected to join the other legal regulators in making it a mandatory requirement to publish price and service information across its membership of over 300 chartered accountancy firms dealing with probate matters.

Currently the ICAEW does not make it a mandatory requirement for members to publish price and service information, and is the only legal regulator to do so. But this is set to change after the ICAEW published a report stating that the “disappointing” uptake of its members to display the information calls for tighter restrictions.

Despite issuing a best practice guide on transparency to all of its probate firms in June 2019 and later calls by the ICAEW requesting co-operation in uptake from its registered members, requesting adherence with the voluntary transparency guidance, the ICAEW regulatory board IRB recommended that transparency measures are properly regulated.

The ICAEW has consequently launched a consultation to amend the rules around transparency in probate work, with the new probate regulations expecting that accredited firms must publish information relating to the total or estimate fees charged for the work, in addition to explanations for how fees are calculated.

The ICAEW consultation document states that firms, “must provide an explanation of the basis upon which fees are calculated, for example fixed fee or an hourly rate/time spent. It must provide an explanation of what services are covered by the published fee”.

Firms must also give descriptions of the services offered as well as information on how complaints can be made to either the ICAEW or the Legal Ombudsman.

The proposed regulations state that information should be displayed on a website, or, “if it does not have a website, it should publish it on other platforms such as social media, or on request by email or post”.

The consultation will run for five weeks after which an application will be made to the Legal Services Board to change existing regulations. ICAEW have requested feedback on the consultation from its members and regulated probate firms, in addition to other interested stakeholders such as members of its regulated community, consumers of legal services, and consumer organisations.

Responses to the consultation can be made here.

This consultation closes at 5pm on Monday 13 September 2021.

Amendments to existing probate regulations are expected to be effective from 1 November and will be guided by feedback gathered in the consultation process.

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