A recent social media survey conducted by SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) has revealed that 98% of people believe the will writing industry should be regulated.
According to the Legal Services Board (LSB), unregulated firms cater for 9% of the total market for individuals’ legal needs and up to 39% for small businesses.
Will writing makes up a significant proportion of said 9%, yet there is no statutory regulation of the industry, and it does not seem as though regulation is round the corner at this time.
Michael Culver, Chair of SFE and Director at Culver Law, believes the will writing industry should be regulated to protect older and vulnerable people from the devastation that can be caused. He said:
“A lack of regulation and the ease at which anyone can start a will writing business is why there has been such a growth in the market. SFE are all too aware of the devastation unregulated will writers can cause as our solicitors are approached far too often to handle the cases of those affected.
Will writing should be a reserved legal activity, just as it is in many countries abroad, with only those qualified being allowed to prepare wills.”
Culver went on to detail what his idea of regulation would look like, noting that he would not make the activity of will writing exclusive to solicitors:
“Whilst this would not be exclusive to solicitors, it would require firms to demonstrate that staff are qualified and have suitable insurance in place.
A centralised register, such as Spain’s Central Registry of Wills, whereby all wills drafted in this country would be logged and stored, would be highly beneficial – and is long overdue.
A will is arguably the most important legal document you will ever sign as it passes on the entirety of your worldly possessions. It is important to seek professional advice when writing it to ensure your requests are carried out as you wish in the event of your death.”
This comes just over two months after the Legal Services Board announced that it would not be conducting a statutory review of the unregulated legal services sector, a move which left Culver and SFE “utterly dismayed”.
However, the LSB did propose an accreditation system which would “recognise the qualifications and quality assurance mechanisms already in place within specialist membership organisations”, a proposal welcomed by STEP’s Emily Deane at the time.
What’s more, the SRA recently commissioned their own independent research into the market, seeking to “better understand the size and scope of the market for unreserved legal activities – as provided by both regulated and unregulated providers”, and “identify potential risks and opportunities the unregulated sector may present for consumers”.