Charity Will Aid has apologised to solicitors for emailing thousands of members of the public with a wills promotion in partnership with Co-operative Legal Services containing the words ‘you don't have to see a solicitor’.

The Gazette understands that several solicitors and firms have reacted by withdrawing from Will Aid.

Under Will Aid, set up in 1988, participating solicitors waive their fee for writing a basic will in return for a donation to charity. The controversial email was sent to 10,000 inquirers who had failed to get wills written under the scheme, promoting ‘alternative offers’ from one of three partners who had agreed to donate part of their fee.

These were the Co-op, The Goodwill Partnership and Which? Wills. 

One solicitor who saw an email promoting the Co-op partnership told the Gazette: ‘It was rather a kick in the teeth after many years of pro bono support by solicitors.’

In a statement today, James Huitson, Will Aid’s chair, said: ‘I would like to say sorry for any offence caused to individuals and their firms as a result of a recent promotion offered by us outside of the traditional November Will Aid month.’

He said the controversial promotion was ‘a limited piece of test marketing’ due to end on 15 August.

‘It is aimed solely at people who still wanted to make a will through Will Aid but found that all the appointments were taken in their area. The gap between the number of available appointments and the number of prospective will-writers has been increasing each year and this was an attempt to address this problem.’

Huitson added: ‘We should have been more sensitive to any potential upset this would cause and the impact of this on our relationship with some of the firms that have supported us in the past.

‘We would like to apologise for this, it is a lesson learned and will form a significant part of how we evaluate future activity outside of our November campaign. We also remain absolutely committed to promoting the value of solicitors in the production of legally valid wills.’