Everyone knows that having a Will in place is vitally important. But a Will is a Will whether it’s drawn up by a solicitor or a Will writing company….Isn’t it?
Actually, the answer is no. Qualified lawyers are overseen by the Legal Services Board (LSB) and if something goes wrong, complaints can be dealt with by the Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales.
If you use an unregulated Will writing company, either on-line or face to face, or do your own Will using an off-the-shelf kit, the Legal Ombudsman has no power to intervene.
What’s more, many unregulated Will companies are uninsured so if a Will is disputed because of inaccuracies, then the chances of getting any legal compensation are slim.
So, what’s their appeal then?
Although solicitors still prepare two thirds of Wills, unregulated Will writing companies now account for around 12 per cent of the market, about the same as those who use off-the-shelf Will kits.
Unregulated services can also prepare Lasting Power of Attorney applications and set up things like protective property trusts.
They are usually cheaper than solicitors and although unregulated, you can take steps to protect yourself to some extent by making sure that the service belongs to either one of the following:
Members of these organisations must regularly update their training, be insured to cover legal costs if your will is challenged – financial experts recommend you choose a company with at least £2 million of professional indemnity cover giving you a better chance of compensation if things go wrong – and follow a code of practice approved by the Trading Standards Institute.
Calls for regulation
Despite calls by the LSB to make Will writing subject to regulation, after finding ‘comprehensive evidence’ that consumers purchasing Wills from unregulated firms received poor service resulting in financial loss, practical issues and emotional harm, the government decided against it.
Typical mistakes included:
Wards Solicitors’ lawyers have seen for themselves the anguish badly written Wills can cause.