The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) have thrown their hats into the ring to regulate will-writers, amid further criticism of the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) decision not to extend regulation to estate administration.
On Wednesday the LSB submitted its to the Lord Chancellor that will-writing become a reserved legal activity, but performed a u-turn on estate administration.
Chris Grayling has 90 days to make a decision. If he agrees, regulation will start in April 2015, ahead of which the LSB will consider applications from those regulators that want to be designated to regulate will-writers.
CILEx chief executive Diane Burleigh said: “CILEx is the natural home for specialty lawyers and on its behalf ILEX Professional Standards (IPS will apply for CILEx to be designated as a regulator for will writers. We are confident our regulatory arrangements will be sufficiently flexible to assure the competence and character of will writers and also including those providing probate and estate administration services.”
Sheila Kumar, chief executive of the CLC, said: “Our aim, as an innovative regulator, is to regulate those legal services that consumers access on a regular basis. It would be a natural extension, should the Lord Chancellor decide that will-writing should become a reserved activity, to apply to regulate those services.”
Both the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Institute of Professional Willwriters have both previously indicated their desire to regulate will-writers as well, although the Society of Will Writers (SWW) has confirmed to Legal Futures that it has “no immediate plans to put itself forward as a potential regulator”.
In a statement, it added: “In a still young, small and very specialist area of law, the SWW would support the appointment of fewer regulators rather than the LSB’s proposals for several.”
On estate administration, IPS chairman Alan Kershaw said the LSB has not gone far enough. “There is a danger that failing to make estate administration a reserved activity risks repeating the weakness of the existing position where only one part of the wills and probate process is reserved,” he explained.
“While we recognise that fraudulent behaviour can be addressed by means other than regulation, the need for competence and probity is no less in relation to the administration of estates than will writing.
“This decision will make it harder to assure the right level of competence in will writers. It is likely that public and consumer protection will be compromised if the result is that less competent and professional providers shift to estate administration – the part of the process which is most profitable, and where the need for client protection measures is greatest. IPS is concerned that the price advantage for unregulated providers will be accentuated, to the detriment of the public.”
Ms Kumar said: “The CLC does currently regulate estate administration through our licensing of probate practitioners and we, like many others, were surprised that the decision on estate administration was not to recommend it to become a reserved activity along with will-writing.
“Although voluntary codes may have their place, it is our view that the best protection for consumers, given the often large sums of money involved in estate administration, is through proportionate regulation as in the case of conveyancing and probate services. We will be seeking to gain a better understanding of the LSB’s rationale on this recommendation.”
The SWW said it too was disappointed by the decision on estate administration. “The SWW has long identified and reported the fact that many of the cases identified as poor wills was due more to poor or fraudulent estate administration than to the actual quality of the will,” it said.