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Wills: Government refuses to regulate will-writing

The government has decided not to regulate will-writing, despite recommendations by the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) to do so.

The LSB’s recommendation was published in February, following lengthy research by the Legal Services Consumer Panel and a long consultation in which the majority of the professional associations supported the proposal to tighten regulation of will-writers.

The government has decided not to implement the LSB’s suggestion to amend the Legal Services Act even though the Lord Chancellor acknowledged that consumers are harmed by poor practices within the will-writing field, and that regulation might solve some of the problems.

Instead the Lord Chancellor mentioned alternatives for unregulated will-writers such as voluntary regulation, extra guidance, codes of practice, and education of consumers.

LSB Chairman David Edmonds said he was “disappointed” by the government’s decision and Elisabeth Davies, Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said the decision is “terrible news for consumers and makes no sense given the sheer weight of evidence of consumer detriment and the wide consensus backing regulation”.

Law Society Chief Executive Desmond Hudson said the government’s decision means “unregulated providers can carry on writing wholly unsuitable wills, leaving consumers without any recourse when things go wrong as a result.”

Alan Kershaw, Chair of ILEX Professional Standards, said he doubted that voluntary regulation will work and said “It creates confusion by presenting the public with a plethora of varying standards”.

Paul Sharpe, Chairman of the Institute of professional Will-writers, called the government’s decision “rather perplexing” and he voiced concern about the effectiveness of voluntary codes of practice saying that they were unlikely to make any impact in the will-writing market.

STEP Chief Executive David Harvey said “STEP regrets that the Lord Chancellor has decided not to go ahead with plans to regulate will writing in England and Wales. STEP remains committed to ensuring that any member of the public can be confident that when using a STEP member for will-writing services they are dealing with a qualified professional who is committed to a rigorous Code of Professional Standards backed by an effective disciplinary process.”

The only victim of the government’s decision is the public.

By Karen Shakespeare, 18th May 2013