The Legal Ombudsman has called for the government to review the practice of unregulated companies providing legal services, including ‘will writing’ companies after claims that consumers are being ‘ripped off’.
This announcement follows an investigation into ‘will writing’ companies by the Legal Service Board last week after they uncovered poor practices being undertaken by these unregulated firms.
As a solicitor with twenty years of experience in the area of wills and probate, I have certainly experienced many instances where utilising the services of an unregulated will drafting company, rather than a practicing solicitor, have caused untold problems for family members.
Unfortunately, will writing companies and individuals can often come across very professionally at the outset, and as such, people do not always think about the differences between using their services over those of a fully regulated solicitor.
The fact is that at the moment, the law in England and Wales allows anybody to set themselves up as a ‘will writer’. As a result, many will writers and have not undertaken any training, are not insured and are certainly not regulated. In today’s price driven world, the fact that a will writer, rather than a wills and probate solicitor, can offer the service so cheaply (due to the fact that they are unlikely to be paying insurance fees or membership fees to a governing or regulatory body) can also attract consumers.
Sadly, I have also seen a number of instances where unregulated will writers advertise a cheap “headline’ price only to discover that the client has been charged a much higher fee at the conclusion of the matter. Sometimes the fees which are charged are far in excess of what a fully insured and regulated solicitor would have charged for providing the same service.
Whilst not all will writing companies offer a ‘rogue’ or inferior service, I have unfortunately seen enough instances, especially over recent years, for me to fully support the proposed change in the law. I certainly feel that regulation in this area would benefit the interests of consumers allowing clarity and peace of mind for those seeking to protect the future of their loved ones by making a will.