Will writing: new entrant challenges estabilshed bodies

A network set up as an alternative to established will writing representative bodies has claimed that in less than a fortnight since launch, it has already received applications from a quarter as many prospective members as it planned to sign up in the whole of 2014.

– a limited company which hopes to rival the Institute of Professional Will Writers (IPW)  and the Society of Will Writers (SWW) – said about a fifth of the 128 applicants so far were not previously members of any organisation linked to will writing or estate planning, while the remainder were existing members of industry bodies.

The network, which launched on 14 February, said it had targeted a membership of 500 by the end of the year. In 2011, the Legal Services Consumer Panel estimated the IPW had around 200 members, compared to the SWW’s 2,000.

As an initial inducement to join the EPN, membership is free for the first 500 to apply. Thereafter, it will charge £240 for full membership and £75 for affiliated membership. All members will be expected to clear criminal record and solvency checks, pass an entrance exam or hold a relevant qualification, and have obtained professional indemnity insurance.

Membership benefits promised include training opportunities, discounted drafting services, a forum and technical advice. A network brochure says: “In an unregulated sector you need to stand out from the crowd and show that you are a knowledgeable professional that wants to work to a professional charter. When members of the public see that you are an EPN member that will give them re-assurance to use your services.”

Michael Brown, the EPN’s head of network services told Legal Futures that the EPN was encouraged by the reaction to date. He pointed out that much of the time since the launch had included schools’ half term, which might be expected to be quiet.

He said a number of online courses would be launched shortly. “We want to make training as accessible and of high quality as possible,” he said. A smartphone app for EPN members was in development and would go live in the second quarter of 2014, Mr Brown reported. It is expected to give members access to a variety of the network’s services.

He said the network had already built partnerships with companies including credit card payment giant Worldpay, which would enable members to accept online payments from clients. Another partner is DPL Professional, which offers will-drafting software.

The EPN’s chairman is Andrew Townsend, who is the managing director of Legacy Probate Services, a company which offers estate administration, will drafting, trust drafting and related services, as well as conveyancing. The CompanyCheck website lists Mr Townsend as holding 18 current directorships at businesses with a combined assets value of £16m and liabilities of £9.5m.

Four of the EPN’s 10 named officials are directors of LPS and Mr Brown – a former general manager of the SWW – is also listed as working for both organisations.

The EPN’s head of technical support is Helen Hill, who is an LPS director. She is a member of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers and a graduate member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. She also has a law degree and has completed the legal practice course.

Mr Brown added that the EPN also has “access to a range of legal and tax specialists to call on when required”.

  • The Institute of Professional Willwriters has asked us to point out that its membership (now 265) is made up of firms, rather than individuals, and so is not directly comparable with the other organisations in the field. There are around 900 advisers within these firms.

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