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Legal ombudsman calls for regulation in will writing

The ombudsman has suggested a voluntary scheme as a short-term solution until a long-term alternative is found

17 October 2014

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The Legal Ombudsman has called on the government to rethink its position on wills and consider making will writing a reserved legal activity.

The ombudsman is concerned by the lack of any regulatory oversight in will writing and following complaints from clients across the country, had to resolve over 1000 wills and probate related claims in 2013.

Last year the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, chose not make will writing a reserved legal activity, despite the Legal Services Board advising him to do so in the belief that regulation would improve conditions for consumers.

Adam Sampson, chief legal ombudsman, thinks that if the government is reluctant to create a regulator, alternative options need to be considered as the current situation is unsatisfactory: "Wills can be prepared by anyone in principle. For people on a budget, this creates headaches about the standard of service one could reasonably expect. It also means some people will have access to help if things go wrong, while others won't.

"Failing a move to regulate all will writers; we want the government to at least consider a voluntary ombudsman scheme into which service providers can opt themselves. Provision already exists for the Lord Chancellor to make this happen."

In a report published by the ombudsman, 'Complaints in focus: Wills and probate', a voluntary system where unregulated service providers opt into the ombudsman's scheme was put forward as the most realistic option.

This would give customers of the regulated service providers suffering detriment up to the value of £50,000 (the ombudsman's financial compensation limit) a designated body to lodge their complaint with, and potentially receive compensation.

The Society of Will Writers, which represents over 2,000 will writers in England and Wales, supports a move to a voluntary scheme.

Nick Honeyman Brown, chair of the Society, said: "The Society's overriding objective is for all its members to provide consumers of will writing, trust and estate administration services with the certainty of obtaining a quality product, backed by real consumer protection.

"Working together with the Legal Ombudsman we believe this objective is more likely to be achieved."

Categorised in:

Wills, Trusts & Probate