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Will writers face tougher scrutiny and regulation

Legal Services Board hears will writing evidence

A will

Will-writers may face tighter controls and regulation   

Calls for will writers to be regulated and properly qualified as Legal Services Board hears evidence

Will writers found wanting

The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) has called for all will writers to be regulated and properly qualified. Which? also wants to see higher standards in will writing, probate and estate management.  

Earlier this year, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) published a report entitled ‘Cowboy Will Writing- incompetence and dishonesty in the UK will market’. 

It found that three-quarters of professional practitioners had encountered cases of incompetence or dishonesty in the will-writing market in the previous 12 months. Specific issues SHIP members identified included:

  • Invalid wills with basic drafting errors
  • Will writers making untrue claims about legal changes
  • Will writers falsely representing their qualifications
  • Will writers going out of business and clients’ will disappearing
  • Widespread use of hidden fees
  • Evidence of fraud in estate administration    

As the Legal Services Board considers submissions to an investigation into how best to protect consumers, David Harvey, chief executive of STEP said: ‘It is vital that consumers can have full confidence in practitioners, who should prove they have the highest standards of technical competence and must allow consumers redress by committing to a professional code of conduct.’

Calls for reform and regulation 

Mark McLaren, Which? Principal Advocate said: ‘Which? also wants to see higher standards from all will writers whether they are solicitors or work for a will writing firm so we welcome STEP’s statement. Our evidence from as long as ago as 1996, now backed up the LSB Consumer Panel’s July 2011 report into will writing, showed that there was plenty of room for improvement in will writing.

‘We look forward to the LSB publishing its proposals on how they think the will writing, probate and estate management sectors can be improved to enhance consumer protection.’

Regulation of will writing has also been supported by the Institution of Professional Will writers and The Law Society. Law Society President, John Wotton said: ‘We believe that regulation of will writing is the only appropriate means of protecting the consumer and we support the recommendation that will writing should become a reserved activity. 

‘Writing a will is one of the most important financial and personal decisions that someone will make, and the public should be protected accordingly.’ 

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