Many people, I am sure, would assume that only solicitors are allowed to write wills, but think again! In fact anyone, and I do mean anyone, can start a business writing wills.
Whilst writing a will seems an obvious legal task only certain legal activities are regulated by our professional bodies.
This very subject has been in the news recently as the Legal Services Board had proposed regulating will writing. However, the Lord Chancellor has rejected this and will writing remains unregulated.
So, you’re probably thinking, so what? Why should this bother me? Well consider some of the advantages of using a regulated solicitor.
- It ensures that only competent and trained people are providing you with a professional and watertight service.
- It offers protection to you, the customer.
- Solicitors are closely regulated and monitored to ensure that high standards are maintained throughout the profession.
Currently, a customer may instruct a will writing company and assume that they are a firm of solicitors, or, at the very least, experts at what they do. It’s a fact that will writing generates a lot of negligence claims, mainly because any mistakes do not normally come to light until after the person has died, at which point, it is too late to correct those mistakes.
As solicitors, we are required to have insurance to guard against such claims. If an unfortunate mistake has been made then there will be a means of financial redress. However, that financial redress may not be available if you have used an unqualified will writer who did not have insurance and has disappeared or is no longer in business.
Solicitors, on the whole, may not always get it right, but if standards are not met we will suffer the consequences. Also, if a firm stops operating for any reason, there is a system in place to ensure that a firm’s files and stored documents (including wills) are safeguarded. Such protection may not exist if you have used an unregulated will writer.
I am not someone who believes in over-regulating businesses, but, in this case, I believe that there is a good case to support formal regulation across the will writing industry, for the reasons given. However, our Lord Chancellor has decided this is not to be and, alternatively, he has encouraged a form of self-regulation within the industry.
With this in mind, the Law Society has announced its own “Wills Quality Standard” which is due to be launched later this year. I am fully supportive of this as it will help to ensure that consistently high standards are maintained across the profession.
Useful information on making a will can be found on the law society website.
Andrew Gullett is Pudsey Legal's head of wills and probate. You can find out more about Andrew and the services he offers by reading the following pages, or contacting us for further information.
Wills and Probate.
Lasting Powers of attorney.
Planning for care home fees