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Our Views on Unregulated Will Writers

There has recently been quite a bit of bad press surrounding unregulated will writers. For example, The Law Society Gazette revealed some rather alarming statistics at the end of January which included statements such as “… 67% of consumers wrongly believe that all will writers are solicitors.”  Plus “… a survey of more than 1,000 people revealed 82% assumed that training and qualifications are required before someone can become a will writer.”

Of course, the Gazette is the “trade rag” of solicitors. As a consequence, you might think: “they would say that wouldn’t they”. Well, it seems that it’s not just the Solicitors who are concerned about will writers. On 2 February, the www.timesonline.co.uk reported how a retired civil servant was going to the High Court in a test case, over the fees charged to bereaved relatives by one particular will writing firm based in South London, claiming their charges were excessively high. 

As ever I know nothing about this area of law, and so I sought the expert knowledge of my colleagues in the private client department – partner Edward Rees and solicitor Lucy Scott.

Edward’s initial reaction is: “Of course we welcome the competition of honest, reliable and professional will writers. Many provide an excellent service and this should be recognised.”  However, he goes on to say “the trouble is that the will writing industry (outside of that carried out by Solicitors) is unregulated.  This means, in the event they make a mistake or something goes wrong, there may not be appropriate protection in place. Contrast this with Solicitors. We are tightly regulated and have to ensure that adequate protection is in place.”

Furthermore, as Lucy points out, “will writers often sell their services by way of a ‘menu’ of choices – ie, you start off with a basic product and are asked to add on extras. Costs can soon escalate and consumers may find that what initially looked to be a pretty reasonable expense ends up being rather more costly than the service that would have been provided by a qualified expert in a regulated firm of solicitors.”

Edward touches on another point consumers should be careful about “if you are using a will writer, take care not to join some ‘pay as you go scheme’ such as excessive annual charges for holding your will.”  His final comment is “if consumers are not certain about what they are signing up for, do give us a call – we are more than happy to offer some quick simple advice over the phone.”