Will writing and estate administration should be regulated, says advisory group

Providers of Will-writing and estate administration services should be regulated, the Legal Services Board (LSB) has said, after research found an inadequate standard of Will administration and safekeeping of consumer's money.

Investigating the legal services of different types of providers, the LSB found 'consistent patterns of sloppiness', simple errors - including names being omitted from paperwork - and poor communication, resulting in what it called an 'unacceptable service.'

The board, which regulates lawyers in England and Wales, also found that consumers were subjected to unfair sales practices, and in some instances uncovered cases of fraud and deception.

Whilst it said providers offering legal services should continue to operate, it warned consumers should be better protected through regulation along the lines of the legal services sector.

The decision on whether or not to regulate Will-writing and estate administration has long been debated. Currently, anyone can set up a Will writing service although there is no official regulatory body in place.

Solicitors can provide Will-writing services and although regulated, the LSB also said that they needed to improve and face tighter inspection.

Commenting on the findings, Chris Kenny, chairman of the Legal Services Board, acknowledged that many Will-writers and estate administration providers worked well and met the needs of their clients, but added:

"We found too many examples of providers - lawyers and will-writers alike - not listening to their clients or being sloppy in their work - meaning those taking the important step of writing a will were also, unfortunately, leaving problems to their beneficiaries. The prevalence of poor sales practices, and indeed the incidence of fraud, was also disappointing."

Many Will-writing providers may be sceptical of claims for extending regulation. Chris Kenny added that regulation was a 'true public interest initiative.'

The recommendations are to go through consultation and will be considered by the Government, which is expected to comment and make a decision based on results by the end of the year.

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