Smith Sutcliffe Solicitors

Law Society warning on unqualified Will Writers

Law Society launches consumer campaign calling for regulation of will writers

Will writers must be regulated at the earliest opportunity to stop the exploitation of consumers.

The Law Society is launching a new campaign to warn consumers who are making the most important financial and personal decisions of their life of the dangers of using will writers who are not properly qualified.

Law Society President Linda Lee said, 'Anyone in England & Wales can operate as a will writer. They are not required to hold any formal qualifications may well provide no consumer protections such as insurance.

'Many of those calling themselves will writers may have purchased a franchise to do so and are free to prepare wills without any training or insurance protection. As a result, some will writers do not have the means to recompense an injured party to the full extent of their loss, which severely undermines the possibilities of seeking redress. When something does go wrong, there's no system in place to prevent the same mistakes happening again.

'Five years ago the government called for voluntary regulation of will writers, but since then we have only seen more and more consumer detriment as a result of no regulation.

'The Law Society is now lobbying the Lord Chancellor to make sure that only competent and appropriate individuals are able to hold themselves out as will writers. The system must be changed to protect the public.

'The fact that most problems are detected after the individual has died is a strong argument for establishing a robust regulatory framework. The Law Society is looking to protect consumers as the drafting of a will and administering the estate through probate can engage complex legal and financial areas, often involving technical issues of tax, trusts, and property rights.

'Writing a will is one of the most important financial and personal decisions that someone will make, and the public should be protected accordingly. Currently there is no regulation surrounding will-writing and anyone is able to write a will, holding themselves out as an expert. So there is a clear need for effective regulatory provisions to be put in place to ensure that where there is a problem, those affected can be recompensed, and the reasons for the mistake can be addressed and prevented from reoccurring.

'It is extremely important to talk to a solicitor who can make sure that the will is expressed in a way that is legally watertight. A solicitor will also be able to advise on complex financial issues such as inheritance tax and trusts planning. Solicitors are all trained and regulated. They are required to have adequate insurance to protect the public.'

Law Society consumer research* indicates that consumers are unable to distinguish between regulated and unregulated providers. Despite this confusion, there is a clear demand for regulatory elements to be in place (regardless of the added cost that it might entail). 82% of respondents to the survey agreed that they ‘would pay more to have a will drafted by a regulated provider with a formal complaints procedure and compensation scheme’.

Problems in the drafting of a will have the potential to cause the most profound repercussions for the bereaved, who may be left with significant costs to resolve problems, be prevented from benefiting from the wishes of the person they have lost, and be faced with an uncertain and difficult process to seek redress at a time of great emotional difficulty.

Smith Sutcliffe's Private Client Team are all experienced in Will drafting and can ensure that your Will is properly prepared and ensures that your wishes will be carried out.  Smith Sutcliffe are a Regulated provider of legal services and comply with  all SRA requirements for dealing with a clients' legal work.

3rd March 2011, 11:43
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