Hot on the heels of the Commercial Attorney's application to represent members of the public in the legal services market, which I reported on late last week, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland have jumped on the bandwagon and have submitted a similar application to the Scottish Government demanding their ‘Chartered Accountants’ be allowed to handle legal affairs for clients such as wills & probate services.
You can read more about the ICAS application for rights of audience here : ICAS application for rights of audience and other applications made under Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 here : Rights of Audience
ICAS application demands accountants be allowed to handle wills & probate services while concealing dangerous lack of consumer protection : "ICAS believes that its practising members, by virtue of their qualifications as Chartered Accountants, and of their knowledge and experience of personal and trust affairs, taxation and the compilation of all kinds of financial statements and accounts, gained over years in the provision of professional services to the public, are appropriate persons to be engaged in these services. It further believes that the public would wish to engage its members' services in this respect. ICAS believes it satisfies every aspect of the public interest."
While increased competition in the legal services market is of course welcomed by most consumers but perhaps not solicitors, the fact is that Scottish Accountants lack safeguards to protect clients & consumers when their work becomes poor, or is sufficiently 'crooked' to the extent that client funds disappear, are embezzled, or lost on notorious financial scams created by the accountants which are so complicated they can never be resolved.
Moreover, when a client discovers they have been robbed by their accountant, they often find themselves bullied out of any legal representation they can obtain simply because the accountants firm is too powerful and linked to many local legal firms businesswise, making it 'not in the interest' of anyone to legally represent clients ruined by Chartered Accountants and proceed cases to sue crooked accountants and their regulator for recovery of lost funds.
One area where such financial scams against clients are easy to get away with, relate to wills & probate services of deceased loved ones, where it is almost impossible to recover the many millions of pounds each year stolen by accountants and solicitors from the estates of dead family members, who willed their possessions & assets to their loved ones but more often end up in the back pockets of the accountants and solicitors dealing with their affairs post death.
The following is what ICAS are seeking in terms of 'rights of audience' for Chartered Accountants to handle certain aspects of legal services for clients :
a. petitions to a Sheriff Court for appointment of executor's dative in intestate estate; (and some testate estates); b. applications to a Sheriff Court to resolve informalities in the execution of certain Wills; c. applications to a Sheriff Court to resolve queries regarding the domicile of the deceased; d. applications to the Court of Session where an original will has been lost but there is an extant copy; e. written applications to a Sheriff Court to present the inventory (of the deceased's estate), which is the basis for which confirmation will be granted.
While the work above will be self-egulated by ICAS - that is, accountants will regulate any complaints against accountants carrying out the work, there will be no external safeguards for clients such as a measure of ‘independent’ regulation and oversight by the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who will regulate the same work only if it is carried out by your solicitor.
Here is the example of what happened to me at the hands of a notoriously crooked Borders Accountant, Norman Howitt, now with the JRW Group of accountants which spans the Scottish Borders : A picture is worth a thousand words - Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders
Despite ICAS claims to the contrary, there were no safeguards for my late father's assets .. Norman Howitt and the solicitor, Andrew Penman, of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, simply pulled the estate apart for themselves, and not content with doing that, Norman Howitt then made a grab for the assets of my mother too, insisting she turn over all her money to him for his own control, losing my mother in a malaise of complicated legal documents she lacked any impartial legal consultation to protect from a very wicked attempt to rob her of her money.
You can read more about what happened and how the Scotsman newspaper covered the story of Norman Howitt & Andrew Penman here : Andrew Penman & Norman Howitt : Lawyer & accountant team up to ruin Cherbi executry estate
Indeed, such were the lack of 'safeguards' on Mr Howitt's activity, when it was discovered he had embezzled money from the sale of assets of my late father into his former accountancy firm's accounts (Welch & Co, Hawick), he fabricated claims to the Police to try and put myself and my legal agents off the scent of his trail of embezzlement ... and as you can see from the 'investigation' carried out by the ICAS Chief of Regulation - Dr Tom McMorrow, who is now the ICAS General Council, Howitt's illegitimate use of the Police to conceal his trail of theft and brutality against my family was kept out of the investigation and report for fear of attracting the possibility of criminal charges against Howitt for his actions.
That is of course, but one case where an accountant deliberately and brutally set out to destroy a family solely for the purpose of gathering the money for his own control - that much is certain from the trail of documents which were leaked to me by solicitors running for cover at the extent of the scandal ... however, the trail of documents also show that Mr Howitt employed others to ensure he got his way, even to the extent of seeing they received huge sums of money free of charge just to ensure his own control over my late mother & father's assets ... a terrible situation which has been repeated many times over the years by accountants who have ruined the affairs of deceased clients for their own personal profit.
You may ask, what steps did I take to recover damages from what Mr Howitt did to my family ?
Well I took every step I could, but Mr Howitt and his accountancy firm, and even ICAS themselves, ensured I could not obtain legal representation to do anything about it. All the local legal firms were bullied into not representing me, because Mr Howitt's accountancy firm does business with all of the local solicitors ... and ICAS and the Law Society of Scotland saw to it I could not obtain any other legal agents from anywhere else in Scotland to handle the case, because of course, there were several firms of crooked solicitors also involved with Norman Howitt's mission to destroy my family's assets.
ICAS claim within their application that Chartered Accountants are required to hold Professional Indemnity Insurance to cover any losses arising from negligence or other losses generated by their poor work for clients.
Indemnity Insurance claims we have all heard before which turn out to be useless : “Practising Scottish Chartered Accountants are required to hold PII cover and the amount is calculated by reference to their fee income (currently, the requirement is to hold two and a half times gross fee income). That level of cover would, in our submission, be insufficient to provide the necessary level of assurance. The precise level of cover is in the gift of the Institute and it would prescribe a minimum level for the firm, calculated by reference to estate values being administered by the member, and impose the further obligation of top-up cover for large estates. Member firms are already required to have "run-off" cover in place for two years post-trading.”
Well as it happens, when clients who have been ruined by crooked accountants ask for details of the indemnity insurance cover, they are kept in the dark, and ICAS themselves wont even disclose it, as I found myself when trying to pursue Mr Howitt for the huge financial harm he did my family - so this insurance cover which accountants hold to cover clients who lose out financially, is simply a pack of lies, a corrupt policy of protection for crooked accountants, similar to the same Professional Indemnity Insurance arrangements which have allowed so many crooked lawyers to escape without paying their ruined victims a penny.
I have reported on the woes of indemnity insurance regarding the legal profession here : Lawyers negligence insurance branded corrupt, anti-consumer as evidence reveals only one per cent of clients get chance of payout
Trust me – the same applies to the negligence & indemnity insurance ‘carried’ by Scottish accountants .. it is a little more than a scheme to protect the guilty from poor ruined clients … also many of the same insurers who insure solicitors, insure accountants …
It comes down to this - As you can see from the ICAS application, Scottish accountants want the power to 'Norman Howitt' your money & assets after your death by raising an application to the Scottish Government for permission to handle your wills and other related legal business which currently, they cant do.
Would you want what you own, what you have, what your family has worked for to be “Norman Howitted” away in a despicable series of events your family could possibly never recover from while trying to cope with your death ?
From my experience, I say that allowing the ICAS application is too dangerous and not in the public interest at this time.
There are inadequate regulatory safeguards over accountants who are still self regulated by their own colleagues, there is a severe lack of consumer protection offered against poor service (despite claims to the contrary) and to be honest, although I am loathed to say it, you are better taking your will and any such related legal business to a solicitor (or a qualified individual who is independently regulated), now that there is at least the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to carry out ‘independent oversight’ of what is going on.
My advice to you all : Keep your will and any legal affairs away from your accountant .. because you or your family will certainly regret the suffering and intense problems they will cause your family in years to come after your death when or if they typically decide to fleece your assets & estate as seems to be so common these days
Don’t believe the claims of ICAS, which is nothing more than a self regulating body which has no wish to compensate for the harm its members cause others.