The Legal Ombudsman has published a report calling for the introduction of tougher controls on those who charge for writing wills.
Last year, the Ombudsman received more than 1,000 complaints relating to the drafting of wills and the provision of probate services, and these complaints relate only to regulated providers who are professionally qualified.
There are also hundreds of unregulated ‘will writers’ who have no effective regulation and users of such services have no access to the Ombudsman as it only has the power to investigate complaints about regulated service providers. Nor are unregulated will writers subject to rules of qualification and proof of continuing competence. In addition, the probate industry has recently been opened up to allow accountants to undertake probate services for the first time.
The substantial number of complaints shows how complex the art of will writing and administration of probate can sometimes be. Solicitors have not only the experience and training necessary for the task but are also backed by compulsory professional indemnity insurance in the unlikely event that an error is made.
The Government has indicated that it has no immediate plans to take steps to protect consumers by introducing regulation over the will-writing sector. It is estimated that unregulated will writers produce more than 180,000 wills annually.