Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) members will have to abide by a code of practice when they write wills, part of an attempt by the society to fill the regulatory vacuum.
Responding to the government’s last year, the organisation said it would introduce standards of “transparency and service” into will preparation that would help distinguish its members from unregulated will-writers.
The new code of practice comes into effect on 1 April.
STEP said: “Under the code, practitioners are expected to demonstrate openness and transparency, integrity and competency in managing clients’ affairs.”
The code, which is seven pages long, has sections on mental capacity, conflicts of interest – such as the will drafter being a beneficiary – the appropriate qualification for someone undertaking will instructions and preparation, indemnity insurance, and service factors such as the time taken.
While recognising that the urgency of deathbed wills might prevent full compliance, it said: “The will drafter must ensure that where they cannot comply fully, any actions, or omissions, are not to the detriment of the testator’s interests or those of their intended beneficiaries.”
STEP president Geoffrey Shindler said: “STEP has introduced the code because will writing is not a regulated activity in England and Wales. Anyone, regardless of training or experience can set themselves up as a will writer and charge you a fee.
“The code ensures that if you go to a STEP member to draft your will, you can be confident that they are properly educated, operate to the highest professional competencies and to the highest possible ethical standards, both in the way they approach you and in the way they prepare your will.”
The Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) has a code of practice which is approved by the Trading Standards Institute under its Consumer Codes Approval Scheme, while the Society of Will Writers also has a code of practice to which all members have to adhere.
In November, the IPW appointed a solicitor to be its first chief executive, as part of a radical overhaul of the organisation that it hopes will involve licensing legal services businesses. Sally Brown has been charged with the task of creating “a mechanism that will enable its members to provide regulated legal services”, such as conveyancing and contentious probate, the institute said. Meanwhile the society recently increased the amount of study for its will-writing courses.