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Hudson: wills quality scheme will help fend off big brands

Chief executive rejects accusations that the new Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme is just 'a money-making scheme for the Law Society'

5 July 2013

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Chancery Lane's much-vaunted wills and probate quality scheme will open for membership on 31 October, with a nationwide public-awareness campaign starting in January 2014, Law Society chief executive Des Hudson has revealed.

The society's plans to launch a wills and inheritance quality scheme were originally mooted at the Private Client Section's annual conference last year amid growing concerns over the arrival of new entrants to the sector.

Having put the plans on ice while the lord chancellor considered whether will writing should be made a reserved activity, the Law Society is now pressing ahead with the scheme after Chris Grayling decided against the Legal Services Board's (LSB) recommendation in May.

As he unveiled the general structure of the 'Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme' (WIQS) this morning, Hudson warned law firms that it was "not a prudent planning assumption" that solicitors had "a natural hold" on the will-writing and probate market.

Main threats

Saga, the AA and Co-op Legal Services, alongside LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, were among the big brands Hudson mentioned as main threats to the profession, which, he said, sought to bypass solicitors in a "disruptive intermediation" move.

Hudson warned of even greater dangers such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), which has applied to the LSB to become a probate regulator.

"If they are successful - and we have no reason to think they won't be - 140,000 of their members will be able to offer probate services by the end of this year if they choose," he said.

"Simply being a solicitor is not enough", the society's chief executive went on, saying the new WIQS will be "a quality mark with consumer resonance", improve standards and service quality, help differentiate solicitors from other providers, and link members to "other players in the wider industry".

He also rejected accusations that the scheme was "a money-making scheme for the Law Society".

"This is simply not true. This is about positioning solicitors as the natural place to go," he said.

Compulsory training

The firm-level accreditation scheme will involve a wills and estate protocol, compulsory training and development, and marketing support through promotion of the scheme with the public.

The membership fee has been set at £350 plus VAT per firm for the first year, plus £30 per practitioner covered.

Ongoing membership will be £368 plus VAT per firm, plus £32 plus VAT per practitioner.

Compulsory CPD hours are extra, with four modules for senior reporting officers, will-writing practitioners, estate administration practitioners, and core practice management standards. These range from £30 to £60 plus VAT per person but there is a £999 cap per firm.

The Wills and Inheritance Protocol is free but members will be required to purchase the Wills and Estate Administration protocol (£39.95) and the WIQS Management Toolkit (£49.95).

Will-writing quality scheme: the timeline

29 June 2012: first mooted at Private Client Section conference

14 May 2013: lord chancellor refuses to make will writing a reserved activity

22 May 2013: Private Client Adviser's sister title Solicitors Journal reveals Chancery Lane is pressing ahead with the scheme

5 July 2013: Law Society chief executive unveils scheme structure

31 October 2013: scheme opens for membership

January 2014: national public awareness campaign starts

Categorised in:

Wills, Trusts & Probate