Regulation for Will writers? Yes please!


You may have noticed that our profession has been in the news over the last few days. Last week we had the news that the Consumer Panel of the Legal Services Board had completed its investigations into Will writing and had come to the conclusion that Will writing should be regulated. Click here for the full report or here for a summary news report.

This came as no surprise. Will writing has been under the microscope for some time now, and there have been reports of sharp sales practices and mis-selling. Though it is my clear understanding that these allegations have usually been made against companies who are not members of The Society of Will Writers or the Institute of Professional Willwriters, we all become tarred with the same brush in the end. While these organisations can police their own members, they cannot be responsible for other Will writers operating outside of the network; with this in mind both the IPW and the SWW have been pushing for regulation, with the IPW ahead of the curve compared to the SWW.

It now looks like we will get regulation within 2 years, but with the model working rather differently to the one in Financial Services. Both the IPW and the SWW have applied to become regulators and we await further developments. In short, we believe regulation will mean that we will need to sign up to a Code of Practice not so very different to the one we are already work under, but importantly that nobody will be able to operate within Will writing unless they are signed up.

Let me make it clear – this must be good news as it means that the cowboys will slowly fade away and the morally doubtful media scare stories put out largely by The Law Society will cease. I will return in a letter e-mail to the matter of regulation, but would re-iterate that we fully support regulation. It is worth remembering that the above report made it absolutely clear that Wills should not become the sole preserve of Solicitors as they are no better at writing Wills than Will writers, and Will writers provide a valued, more flexible service which the public clearly demands.

Legal Ombudsman

Yesterday several news agencies carried a story about the Legal Ombudsman saying that Will writers were ‘ripping off thousands’. I found this rather puzzling because those words didn’t appear anywhere in the text of the release, merely on the headline. What is more, the story was really about the Legal Ombudsman having no form of redress if people complain about Will writing or any of the other unregulated legal activities (including divorce). However, as with all news stories aiming to generate some PR, Will writers were put up as the patsy. It is quite remarkable that the Ombudsman can say that people were being ripped off on the one hand but had no powers to investigate the cases on the other hand! All members of the SWW are subject to a complaints procedure and will be thoroughly investigated if somebody complains.

The comments made by Des Hudson, chief executive of The Law Society are not becoming of someone of his position. He states that “the unregulated providers are not insured” – this is completely untrue and he must know this to be untrue, unless he is ‘doing a Rupert Murdoch’ with his level of knowledge of Will Writers. For the record, all members of the SWW and IPW have to carry Professional Indemnity Insurance as a condition of membership. I do not know any uninsured Will writers, though there may be a few.

We have strived for seven years to build a business built on integrity and treating clients fairly and will continue to do so whether regulated or not.

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