A BID to crackdown on the unregulated will-writing sector has received the backing of one of the region’s senior legal figures.
The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published proposals for the tighter regulation of all services related to wills, probate and estate administration in England and Wales.
Alison Hall, a partner at leading Newcastle law firm, Hay & Kilner and chairman of the North East & Cumbria Branch of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) has welcomed the recommendations.
Ms Hall, a partner in Hay & Kilner’s private capital team, believes around 1.5% of the will-writing market is unregulated.
She added: “These proposed changes do not mean that only the legal profession will be able to offer these services. Other providers will still be able to offer them but in future they will also be regulated.”
The LSB proposal would allow it to scrutinise any firms offering will-writing services under a regulatory system, and appropriate consumer protections would be put in place.
The proposal includes provision for a mandatory register of authorised providers who will have to have financial protection arrangements in place, a code of conduct and appropriate staff training and supervision.
The Government has launched a 12-week consultation period on the proposed changes which ends on July 16.
Ms Hall, said: “There is currently no restriction on who can deliver unregulated services such as the preparation of wills and the administration of estates.
“It is important that Wills are written by experienced professionals who can give their clients accurate and appropriate advice.”
“These proposals should help to tighten up the provision of will-writing and the administration of estates, which can only be in the best interest of the general public.”
The proposals follow an LSB investigation which uncovered “systematic problems” with will-writing, including unfair sales practices, fraud and deception. Those families affected found that they had little redress when things subsequently went wrong. The LSB is now recommending that both will-writing and estate administration should be regulated, where a fee is charged.
It recommended that all providers were regulated, and that a variety of different types of services were permitted to operate, ranging from general legal services to specialists.
David Edmonds, chairman of the LSB, said: “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 that to be possible, everyone offering such services must deliver a baseline of consumer protection.
“This is not about extending regulation for the sake of it; it is about maintaining public confidence in an important legal process; enhancing the environment for reputable providers; and protecting consumers at particularly vulnerable times in their lives.”
For further information, please contact Alison Hall on 0191 232 8345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org