You are here

Consumer panel backs regulation for all will writers

14 July 2011

The Legal Services Board’s consumer panel has called for will writing to become a reserved activity – but not one reserved for solicitors.

Instead, in its report on will writing published today, the consumer panel said regulation for solicitors should be strengthened, while for non-solicitors it should be based on the existing scheme operated by the Institute of Professional Willwriters.

A small-scale ‘mystery shopping’ exercise carried out by the consumer panel found that over a fifth of the 64 wills were regarded as failures, mainly on the grounds of quality, and solicitors and will writers were to blame in a roughly similar proportion of cases.

However, only one out of 41 wills produced by solicitors failed on the grounds of invalid execution, compared to two out of the 21 produced by will writers.

The wills were assessed by a panel of volunteer experts, made up of solicitors and will writers in equal numbers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, wills created by individuals themselves online or on paper scored the worst results. Four out of 24 were invalidly executed, while half failed on the grounds of quality.

Dr Dianne Hayter, chair of the legal services consumer panel, said the panel was “shocked” by the poor quality of the wills produced in the mystery shopping exercise.

“Although the sample was small, will-writing companies were equally culpable, pointing to the need for tighter controls across the sector,” she said.

In response the Legal Services Board has launched its first ever statutory investigation into how best to protect consumers in the areas of will writing, probate and administration.

David Edmonds, chair of the LSB, said the board would consult widely on the consumer panel’s findings “which clearly indicate consumer detriment across wills produced by different kinds of providers”.

Edmonds added that it was clear from the results of the mystery shopping exercise that “a monopoly for solicitors is not the answer”.

Categorised in:

Wills, Trusts & Probate The Bar