It is not necessary to use a legally qualified professional to prepare a will, the British Bankers Association (BBA) has insisted.
It said a bank’s in-house unit “produces just as satisfactory a service as a firm of solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority”.
In its response to the Legal Services Board’s call for evidence on whether to make will-writing, probate and estate administration a reserved legal activity, the BBA said there was “no substantial evidence of consumer detriment” in these areas when provided by banks.
It also pointed out that banks’ services are already regulated by the Financial Services Authority, while “the scale and longevity of banks mean that we have the capital adequacy to put right any errors, if required, without recourse to professional indemnity insurance and are less likely to go out of business than solicitors”.
However, the BBA acknowledged that there was a need for will-writing staff, whether qualified or not, “to be adequately trained, experienced and supervised”.
Training – such as the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners’ (STEP) qualification
– could be limited to those who are in supervision roles, it suggested – “however, it would increase the costs of providing this service that would be passed on to customers”.
“Financial institutions providing these services already use STEP-qualified staff and have in place training and competency schemes and therefore do not think a restriction of a market to legal professionals in this area will improve competency.”
A conducted last year by the Legal Services Consumer Panel scored wills prepared by banks as the best examined.
Meanwhile, a survey by consumer group Which? – also submitted as evidence – found that 75% of the 1,217 members surveyed used a solicitor for their will, with 88% doing so face-to-face. More than two-thirds (68%) said the fees were in line with their expectations, while 12% said they were more expensive.
The use of DIY kits was very low, though younger people were more likely to go down this route (10% of under 45s compared with 3% overall), “so this might suggest a changing market in future”, Which? said. Overall just 2% said they did their will online.
Which? – which offers its own will-writing service – said it did not oppose making will-writing a reserved activity as it would help raise standards and also ensure all work came within the jurisdiction of the Legal Ombudsman.