The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has made it clear that it is not in favour of any form of regulation for will-writing.
Responding to yesterday’s call by the Legal Ombudsman for a voluntary complaints scheme to cover unregulated wills and probate providers, the MoJ said “other options should be explored first, including better guidance for professionals and making better use of existing consumer information and protection”.
A spokesman said the MoJ agreed with the Legal Services Board (LSB) that there was “room for improvement” in the area of will-writing. However, she said officials were “not convinced that regulation is the best way forward”.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling rejected a recommendation by the LSB last year, backed by the professional bodies, that will-writing should become a reserved activity.
Responding to LeO’s report, Law Society president Andrew Caplen said regulation in the area of wills and probate would “only be effective if it was of a similar standard to that already imposed on solicitors”.
He continued: “The Law Society has been concerned for some time by the absence of regulation for will-writing and the damage that the absence of such protection can have on the public.
“We have long been campaigning to make will-writing a reserved activity. We would welcome the opportunity to revisit this matter and provide better protection for consumers through the regulation of will-writing and estate administration.”
Meanwhile, although the LeO proposal has the support of the Society of Will Writers, the other main will-writer body, the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW), has come out against it.
Since 2010, the IPW has had its code of practice approved under the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme, which is administered by the Trading Standards Institute. The code requires IPW members to have a complaints procedure, and if this does not work, consumers can complain to the Estate Planning and Arbitration Scheme, a binding independent scheme run for the IPW by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
However, this facility has not been used as yet, as the IPW also tries first to handle complaints that come out of firms – it received only four in the last year and all were resolved.
IPW chief executive Sally Brown said the LeO report failed to acknowledge that “the IPW already has an effective complaints procedure which is open to all unregulated will writers”.
“LeO’s report looks at seven case studies, only one of which involves a firm in the unregulated sector, concentrating mainly on complaints in the regulated sector, yet it concludes that there is a need for another complaints process in the unregulated sector. There is simply no evidence for this.”