Scots accountants regulator ICAS have withdrawn their application for rights of audience. The choice of which professional should ruin your legal & financial affairs after you are dead, is to remain unchanged for now, with the revelation that the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland have put 'on hold' their application to the Scottish Government for extended rights of audience to handle clients wills & probate services - work currently undertaken exclusively by solicitors.
Scottish Government made a short admission on accountants rights of audience battle. A spokesman for the Scottish Government today said : "ICAS have put their application on hold meantime. We will proceed once we hear from them again. We have no correspondence from ICAS other than the application. We had a telephone conversation with them some months ago but have heard nothing since."
ICAS had applied for rights of audience to the Scottish Government in July 2008, under the terms of Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990, which I reported on in an earlier article, here : Accountants demand powers to handle wills & legal services, offering 'crooked' self regulation and little consumer protection in return
The 2008 application came after ICAS had tried unsuccessfully to amend the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill 2007, to enable accountants to enter the legal services business, which I reported on earlier, here : Scottish Accountants try to amend LPLA Bill for their own benefit - but refuse independent regulation safeguards for the consumer
A solicitor welcomed the news that ICAS had pulled their rights of audience application, claiming that accountants could not be trusted to handle the wills of dead clients, and warned the public there were little safeguards in the event a crooked accountant made off with the client’s money.
He said : "Considering accountants have little or no experience in the field of handling probate work in Scotland, and clients have even less safeguards in terms of protection from rogue accountants ruining their business, I doubt it would be in the consumer's best interests at this point in time to allow accountants to handle clients post-death affairs. I would therefore not advise a potential client or any of your readers to trust an accountant to 'wind up' their legal affairs according to their will."
The case of Scottish Borders accountant Norman Howitt (pictured left) made it dangerous to allow accountants to handle a client's will. The solicitor went onto continue his critique and suggested accountants be barred from any involvement with wills : "On the basis of the now well known case involving your own family and the accountant Mr Howitt who was executor to your family’s ruined estate, I have advised and put off several clients from appointing their accountant as 'executor' to their will. After having read of Howitt’s actions in your case, I feel accountants and others close to the deceased's financial affairs should be banned from becoming executors on wills they are closely linked with or are handling via their firms either in a personal or business capacity."
You can read more about the way in which an accountant in the Scottish Borders, Norman Howitt, helped a solicitor also in the Scottish Borders, Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, ruin my family's legal affairs, and how they got away with it, here : A picture is worth a thousand words - Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders
While for now, chartered accountants in Scotland do not have the right to handle wills & probate services, they can conduct similar business in England & Wales, which you can read more about HERE
There are numerous reported cases where accountants, acting in the capacity as executor, have totally ruined the estates of deceased clients. Take it from me, there is as little protection against a crooked accountant robbing your life savings or ruining your legal affairs, as there is against a solicitor doing the same.
Often I have found, from not only the case involving my own family’s legal affairs, but also those many more cases brought to my attention by you, the public, that crooked lawyers, and crooked accountants seem to make a good team taking as much money for themselves as they can get before actions are discovered.
It is also a fact the Law Society of Scotland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, both self regulators of their own professions, work together closely on many issues, and proliferate each other’s aims on occasions of investigations into crooked lawyers & accountants, by appointing each other’s members to their in-house committees, a subject which I tackled earlier, here : Fears over corrupt self regulation as accountants regulator draft in ex Law Society President and solicitor as Public Interest members
I would therefore recommended that members of the public who have already appointed an accountant as 'executor' on their will should immediately replace that person or their firm with someone who is a lot less involved in their financial or legal affairs and ensure whoever that person is, they are appointed with a set of specific instructions on what they can and cannot do, with a given timeline & cost not to be exceeded for the completion of their work.