Will-writing to be regulated
The Legal Services Board is today announcing proposals to bring will-writing and estate administration within the scope of legal services regulations, regardless of who provides them.
The legal services regulator reviewed evidence about the problems suffered by some consumers in these areas and conducted research to identify what the risks to consumers were and why they emerged.
It found systemic problems with the services delivered by many different types of providers.
The LSB said it found consistent patterns of sloppiness, simple errors and poor communication.
It said: "This often resulted in an unacceptable service. Too often consumers were subjected to unfair sales practices. There have also been well documented examples of fraud and deception."
The proposals announced today would see all providers of these services regulated and brought within the list of "reserved activities".
This means that everyone who provides services in these areas will be regulated. A variety of different types of providers will continue to be allowed to operate and the regulation of those already providing regulated advice will be improved.
Alongside the proposals on will-writing and estate administration, the LSB also issued two related publications.
The announcement of the approach the LSB would take to examine other gaps in legal services regulation starting with general legal advice for individual consumers and a related review of how and when non-commercial providers of reserved legal services should come within the scope of regulation.
David Edmonds, chairman of the LSB, said: "Ultimately people must be able to write a will with confidence, not fear. For that to be possible, everyone offering such services must deliver a baseline of consumer protection.
"This is not about extending regulation for the sake of it; it is about maintaining public confidence in an important legal process; enhancing the environment for reputable providers; and protecting consumers at particularly vulnerable times in their lives.
"I believe that this is a true public interest initiative."
Paula James, partner at law firm Thomas Eggar LLP, said: "I welcome the regulation of will writing. There is no obligation on unregulated will writers to keep and produce, on the request of the family, information and files so that the deceased's intentions and the circumstances surrounding the will making process can be investigated.
"Indeed it can be difficult or impossible to trace an unregulated will writer years after the will was prepared. When things do go wrong and the unregulated will writer is at fault there may be no insurance policy in place to protect the affected family.
"Although regulation may increase initial costs for some consumers a well drafted will can reduce costs overall so that there is more money available for distribution to the beneficiaries. Regulation has to be a good thing if it ultimately improves the quality of will writers."
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