FoI request reveals LSB moving against reserving will-writing to lawyers

Kenny: external interest has created impetus for action

The Legal Services Board believes that reserving will-writing work to lawyers could lead to fewer people making wills and would do nothing about unfair bundling of estate administration charges, Legal Futures can reveal. 

Papers submitted to the June meeting of the LSB’s main board by chief executive Chris Kenny and released to Legal Futures following a Freedom of Information Act request, said the key issue with will-writing is to “identify the real causes of detriment”. 

Mr Kenny explained: “These include not writing a will in the first place because of excessive costs, non-transparent and expensive bundling of estate administration charges into a will-writing contract, and simply poor drafting of the will itself. The traditional regulatory approach of reserving the activity to lawyers would not address the second issue and may make the first worse.” This would presumably be because of lawyers’ higher charges. 

This does not necessarily mean that the LSB will take no action – if could, for example, require anyone who undertakes will-writing to be regulated in some form.

The board has decided to fast-track a decision on will-writing ahead of its wider work on reserved and non-reserved activities (see ). The papers indicate that this decision was taken in large part by growing media interest and particularly the recent (although at the time impending) Panorama programme on will-writers, which Mr Kenny reported would pose the question of why legislation is warranted to regulate will-writers in Scotland (see story), but not in England and Wales. “This level of external interest creates an impetus to consider more urgently will-writing in its own right,” said Mr Kenny. 

Last week, the Legal Services Policy Institute issued the first part of research into reserved legal activities, which said there was currently no rational policy basis on which to make a decision about whether to extend the list of reserved activities (see story). The second part of the research, being carried out by Professor Stephen Mayson, will seek to suggest a contemporary policy approach to regulation and reservation. 

He will be looking at whether there is a public interest rationale for any legal activity being regulated, and if so whether it should be done by reservation or some other form of regulation. Further, if there is a case for regulation, should it be of the activity, of the individual who provides the service, or of the entity within which an individual is working?

    Readers Comments

  • Will writing needs urgently to be regulated and that should be done by regulation of the individual or organisation. That is the issue. There is a stack of evidence that the public suffers as things are and there is no downside to the public by bringing in regulation. It is not important whether it is reserved to solicitors – it is regulation of whoever does it that is needed which must include minimum levels of training and expertise, minimum levels of insurance and a regualtory framework similar to the SRA. Will writing is not as simple as most people seem to think but the risks are massive.

  • Michael Smith says:

    With reference to the statement by Mr Sheridan who is not alone. Everybody talks about all the evidence that will writing is causing problems and yet nobody actually produces it. The Panorama programme was not about will writing it was about probate and was in fact so biased that the whole integrity of the BBC must be called into question.
    I have myself taken over 8000 will instructions in people’s homes over a fourteen year period, do over 20 hours CPD each year and carry 2 million pounds of PI through the Society of Willwriters.
    I agree with regulation but it has to be fair, and just because a person is called a solicitor it does not mean they have experience of wills or they keep their cpd up to date in that area. If we are to regulate let us insure that solicitors only operate in this area if they are experienced and qualified.

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