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?