The scale of the dementia crisis poses a new professional risk for accountants and lawyers, say experts at the UK200Group of independent chartered accountancy and legal firms.
Debbie Wakefield, joint-chair of UK200Group’s Healthcare Industry Group, said the figures meant financial planners were already having to add care provision to pension and inheritance tax services. Now they would increasingly need to think of professional indemnity insurance as they conducted business.
“An accountant in regular contact with a client may still go weeks or months at a time without seeing them,” explained Debbie, a specialist adviser in healthcare at Edmund Carr chartered accountants.
“Yet it’s between these periods that a professional adviser could reasonably be expected to notice a deterioration in a client’s health. A unique level of trust has been fostered between them, after all.
“But what if they missed the signs, or put it down to simple old age? Given that they could be advising on inheritance tax matters and so on, the would-be beneficiaries could well take issue if their interests go awry amid a decline in the client’s health.
“We may be about to enter a phase in which this scenario becomes more familiar, highlighting the need for accountants to consider a flexible insurance policy.”
Howard Sears, joint-chair and partner at Price Bailey chartered accountants, added: “The same issue affects personal lawyers as much as accountants, given the portfolios and interests in which their services are engaged.
“And of course, a peculiar outcome of the situation for some lawyers may be that they are tasked with defending professionals against claims that they failed a noticeably declining client.”