Support grows for regulation of will-writing
A call for evidence on whether will-writing should become a regulated activity has received a huge response from the profession and public, with consumer bodies in favour of regulation.
The Legal Services Board Consumer Panel has received 380 case studies from lawyers, members of the public and others seeking to inform its research into whether the regulation of will-writing would be in the interests of consumers.
The Legal Services Board has tasked the panel with conducting an investigation into the issue, to inform its forthcoming decision on whether or not to regulate the sector.
Responses to the evidence call revealed strong support for the regulation of will-writing from both the profession and consumer bodies.
The Law Society provided 120 case studies in support of its submission that will-writing should become a reserved activity. It said all will-writers should not need to have the same qualifications as solicitors, but any regulatory regime should have: minimum training requirements; compulsory insurance cover; a compulsory compensation fund; a code of conduct; a complaints management system; and a robust disciplinary mechanism.
Consumer organisations Citizens Advice and the National Consumer Federation both said that will-writing should become a reserved activity. Citizens Advice said the LSB should license professional bodies to police members’ activities, with relevant qualifications required as a pre-condition to practising.
Charitable organisation Remember a Charity said a survey of 140 charities had indicated overwhelming support for regulation, and this should provide consumers with a similar degree of protection to that available for solicitors’ work.
The Trades Union Congress also supported making will-writing a reserved activity, with a code of practice which, if breached, should incur financial penalties.
However, the Office of Fair Trading said that it did not currently consider that enough evidence of consumer detriment existed to justify regulating non-lawyer will-writers. The British Bankers Association suggested that any new regulation should not apply to banks, as complaints against them may already be referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Co-operative Legal Services said in its submission that will-writing should become a reserved activity that may only be carried out by solicitors, as the profession offers a 'clear course of redress’. However, the Co-op acknowledged that 'not all solicitors are competent will-writers’, and included examples of poor work by both solicitors and will-writers in its submission.
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