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Board backs greater consumer protection for Wills

26 Apr 2012

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has announced proposals which it says will deliver greater protection to consumers of will-writing and estate administration services.

The plans would see these services brought within the scope of legal services regulation, thus preventing the problems which have arisen from the market being serviced by unregulated, and often unqualified, will writers and probate services.

The LSB carried out investigations which found systemic problems with the services delivered by many different types of provider, including consistent patterns of sloppiness, simple errors and poor communication often resulting in an unacceptable service.

The investigations also found that consumers were being subjected to unfair sales practices, fraud and deception. Instances were encountered of advisers entering people’s homes and not leaving until a will had been signed – often containing clauses requiring exorbitant administration costs to be incurred in the future.

The proposals would, for the first time, see all providers of these services regulated and brought within the list of ‘reserved activities’, that is to say an activity that can only be undertaken by someone who is regulated.

The announcement has been welcomed by a number of groups including the Solicitors Regulation Authority whose own research last year revealed that one in four wills failed because they were deemed to be of insufficient quality. Some failed to meet the needs and circumstances of the client, while other were deemed not to be legally valid.

Chairman of the Legal Services Board, David Edmonds, said:

“Making a will is something everyone should do. It is one of the most important actions that individuals take. We all should have a high degree of confidence in those entrusted with the task of writing our wills, advising us on the most appropriate actions, and ensuring that our wishes are carried out.

For many people, the service they receive from their lawyer or will-writer meets their needs. But our research shows that there are significant numbers of people receiving poor service and poor outcomes.”

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