Rejection Of Will-Writing Regulation Call ‘A Missed Opportunity’

‘Chance To Increase Consumer Confidence Lost’ As Government Turns Down LSB Recommendation


By Rob Dixon

The Government’s decision to reject proposals from the Legal Services Board (LSB) that will-writing activities should be subject to regulation is a “missed opportunity” that could have a negative impact on consumer confidence, a legal expert at Irwin Mitchell has warned.

In a brief statement this week, the LSB has confirmed that Westminster and the Lord Chancellor have chosen not to accept its recommendations related to regulation of the industry.

The calls came after a two-year investigation by the LSB raised significant concerns over how the market functions and whether the interests of consumers were being served by the current set-up.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Wills team, along with its Will, Trust and Estate Disputes experts, have been long-time supporters of proposals for all writers to be covered by:

  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • A complaints process
  • A Code of Conduct or professional obligations
  • A Training and Competency framework
  • Clarity on costs

Adam Draper, a Partner and specialist in will disputes at Irwin Mitchell, said: “This latest announcement by the Government over regulation, a recommendation we were wholeheartedly in favour of, is undoubtedly a missed opportunity.

“The damage caused by a badly drafted will is significant, both financially and emotionally and is particularly difficult because the problem comes to light after the testator has died. It is then impossible to seek clarification of the testator’s wishes, and reliance on notes taken or made at the time is the only source of help.

“We have long-held concerns that the current level of self-regulation has not worked and consumers are in any event unaware of the lack of regulation. Research has shown that many consumers think that all will writers are solicitors and it is unclear, therefore, whether the consumer is aware that non-regulated will writers are not solicitors and do not have the same level of regulation or consumer protection.

“Furthermore, we have seen instances in our work of bad practice and unethical behaviour, including concerns over levels of service and the appropriateness of the services sold, for which there is no redress for consumers and no formal complaints process without regulation. The consumer is exposed and regulation is simply the only way to police such activities because there is no redress under general law.”

Adam added: “The regulation of will writing does not remove mistakes that can be made within a will and the problems that can potentially arise after death. However, regulation would provide a framework for proper and easy redress, reduce the likelihood of such mistakes happening and ensure that adequate insurance provisions are in place.

“We work with clients of all kinds - from individuals to corporate institutions and charities – and have seen how the common requirement between them all is the desire for a service which meets the highest professional standards.

“Consumers should be able to have confidence that their wills are written by trained and competent individuals who understand the law and have proper professional indemnity insurance, meet training and competence requirements and follow professional codes of conduct.

“This also includes the need for independence which ensures the consumer always comes first, b e given clarity about the costs of a service, what it entails, as well as proper means of recourse if errors or problems do emerge. A properly regulated sector would reassure consumers of the value of will writing services.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Wills