Will-writers face jail as new code of practice scheme goes live

Wills: code targets bad practices

Members of the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) who fail to comply with its code of practice face fines or even imprisonment, as a new UK-wide scheme to strengthen self-regulation by setting standards for such codes goes live.

The IPW is an inaugural member of the Trading Standards Institute’s (TSI) Consumer Codes Approval Scheme – the successor to a similar scheme previously run by the Office of Fair Trading, of which it was also a member – which is being launched today.

Following his not to make will-writing a reserved legal activity, Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling said “voluntary regulation schemes and codes of practice for non-authorised providers” was one alternative to reservation that needed to be explored more.

TSI chief executive Leon Livermore said: “The government recognises the importance of the new scheme, which comes with an important sting in the tail. We will be reinforcing the fact that failure for any will-writing firm to comply with the code, whose logo they display, is a criminal offence for which they could face fines or imprisonment.”

Baroness Crawley of Edgbaston, who is the chair of the independent board that evaluates the codes of practice that form part of the scheme said: “Industry is well placed to understand the demands and expectations of their customers, but those customers need the added confidence that industry codes have been verified as fit for purpose by an independent body.”

Consumer minister Jo Swinson said the scheme will boost consumer confidence and encourage economic growth.

The IPW Code of Practice contains measures to clamp down on poor practices such as: low levels of skills of advisers; poor quality of work; loss of money paid in advance; high-pressure sales including failure to honour ‘cooling off’ cancellation rights; and opaque options to complain and obtain redress when things go wrong.

IPW chairman Paul Sharpe said: “It’s easy for any sector to develop its own rule book but the danger is that they just pay lip service to it. This is why we believe that it’s vital that for any code to have value, it must be verified and endorsed by an independent body.

“It’s great news that consumers will now easily be able to spot a trusted will-writing service simply by looking out for the new TSI Approved Codes logo, or by visiting the TSI website.”


    Readers Comments

  • Spiro Ozer says:

    “failure for any will-writing firm to comply with the code, whose logo they display, is a criminal offence for which they could face fines or imprisonment.”

    What offence under what statute?

  • Schedule 1 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

  • Mike Smith says:

    I have been in the will writing business since 1996 and nobody has ever asked me if I belong to the IPW or the SWW. Nobody has ever asked me if I comply with any code of practice. I have taken over 8000 will instructions.

    It strikes me that those that have been involved with the regulation business are starting to believe their own scripts.

    Who is going to enforce this. The IPW or even more laughable the SWW. They are actually going to send their own paid up membership to prison.

  • This is not about sending IPW members to prison. It’s about having the enforcement processes in place to deal with transgressors. Barley two months into the new scheme, Trading Standards are dealing with their first case of false claims of code approval. Of all the sectors covered by the code scheme, which sector is this problem firm in? Yep, Will writing. Will they end up in prison because of this? Of course not – at least not at this early stage, but if they continue to mislead consumers, prison is where they can expect to end up.

    Mike, your comment that nobody has ever asked you about membership is one that has been made many times. It’s symptomatic of the fact that most consumers think that anyone who writes wills must already be regulated.

    That’s not going to change any day soon unless Mr Grayling & Co put it right by stumping up the money to educate consumers on the reality of the fragmented regulatory regime in legal services…

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