heir, Inherit, Legacy, Wills

Research shows ‘incompetence’ in will-writing

From The Law Society Gazette.

Two-thirds of trust and estate practitioners have encountered ‘incompetence or dishonesty’ in the will-writing market in the past year, according to research published today.

The study has prompted the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), which conducted the survey, to renew its calls for better consumer protection.

Responses from 693 STEP members showed that two-thirds had come across hidden fees which were not outlined in the stated price of a will, and 63% had experienced a will-writing company going out of business and disappearing with their clients’ wills.

Just over a third of respondents said they had seen cases where incompetence had led to significantly higher tax bills.

Examples of malpractice highlighted by the research included one company that approached young mothers in shopping malls and told them that their children would be taken into care if they died without a will.

In another case, a consumer was charged £12,000 up front for executor services, and the firm then went out of business, with the family unable to recoup the money.

STEP chief executive David Harvey said: ‘This research shows how widespread cowboy will-writers have become, and it is clear those who charge a fee for writing a will should now be regulated.

‘They must have an appropriate qualification, and they must have proper indemnity insurance. Soon the consumer will be protected by new regulation in Scotland, and this benefit needs to be extended to cover the rest of the UK.’

The Legal Services Board launched a review of unregulated will-writing in June, and is seeking evidence of consumer harm. The Scottish parliament is currently going through the process of regulating non-lawyer will-writers through the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.

STEP recently launched the STEP Certificate in Will Preparation.

9 August 2010, by Rachel Rothwell.

2 thoughts on “Research shows ‘incompetence’ in will-writing”

  1. Being a Solicitor does not qualify you to write a will. Only continual training and experience in this field can do that and many solicitors so not have the requisite training to write wills or do estate planning. I bet most complaints are about Solicitors and not professional will writers.

    All industries have bad apples but at least professional will writers in the main are trained and have the experience whereas a 2 year qualified Solicitor will know virtually nothing.

    I for one think that regulation is a good thing as long as Solicitors also have to comply with the training and CPD requirements before they can write a will, whereas they can do it from day one without any experience, the same as anyone else.

    1. Solicitors must comply with training and CPD requirements – at least 16 per year! – in order to fulfil the requirements of Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

      Specialist solicitors, such as those who work in our Wills, Probate and Estate Planning Team undertake CPD for their own professional development and also to comply with the EXPERT, SPECIALIST requirements for the professional affliate groups – Solicitors For The Elderly, Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.

      Where do you get ‘2 year qualified Solicitor’ from? Is that just being thrown in for the sake of discussion? Professional Will writers who have trained and been around a bit will have some valuable experience. What about Will writers who are only just starting out? If you compare a 2-year qualified solicitor with a 2-year experienced Will writer, which would a member of the public prefer to handle their intentions?

      Most solicitors practice in their specialist area of law. Our specialists have been inundated with new clients today, worried and each with their own stories of incompetent Will writers they have trusted and been let down by.

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