The case to regulate will-writers in England and Wales is likely to strengthen with moves by the Scottish Executive to introduce regulation north of the border.
A consultation ending on 19 February seeks views on its plan for regulation, which is strongly supported by the Law Society of Scotland. The issue has come into focus as part of the executive’s work in preparing the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.
The consultation paper says that while there is ‘a limited amount of evidence of malpractice’ in respect of non-lawyer will writing businesses in Scotland, ‘it is anticipated that there could be more, but for the fact that evidence often only come to light when a person dies and, as a result, it may be difficult for the relatives to prove the deceased‟s intentions. It has been alleged that some non-lawyer will writers in Scotland have carried out “cold calls”, provided misleading advice and charged excessive fees’.
The consultation paper makes reference to the greater publicity in respect of cases in England and Wales. ‘There is evidence there to support the view that some non-lawyer will-writers exploit the elderly and people on low incomes who cannot afford to use a solicitor and have little experience of legal documents,’ it said.
In his review of regulation, Lord Hunt of Wirral called for will-writers to be regulated, and various will-writer organisations support the idea too.
Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, said: ‘It’s critical that if the legal services market is to be opened up further, will-writers who charge a client fee should be regulated to enhance public protections and that those who provide legal services operate on a level playing field.’
Interviewed in the Legal Executive Journal’s January issue, Legal Services Board chairman David Edmonds said unregulated providers have become ‘a priority area for us to do some thinking in the early part of . It’s not been a priority area till now.
‘Issues to do with unregulated advice have clearly been put to us during the first year of our life. We will look at it. We’ll do some research. We’ll get the consumer panel going at it, but I don’t think you can expect anything significant till at least the middle part of ’.