The dangers of using an unregulated will writer


1st June 2019

Legal Briefing


By Jennifer Koch



NEARLY a fifth (19 per cent) of all people who made a will in 2018 used a will writer, rather than a solicitor, according to a recent study. However, the same research found that 61 per cent of these people were unaware that will writers are unregulated.

The Wills & Probate Consumer Research Report 2018, published by IRN Research, also showed that, of the consumers surveyed, 51 per cent thought will writers should be regulated. Back in 2013, the Legal Services Board (LSB) made this same recommendation to the government, but it was rejected.

There are numerous reports of the various ways in which using a will writer can go wrong. These range from stories of more than 1,000 files containing wills and other confidential information being found 'dumped on the pavement' to cases in which a client paid thousands of pounds for will writing work that was never done. Furthermore, will writers may be more likely to make mistakes that could lead to the will being deemed invalid. This can happen if the will is incorrectly signed and witnessed, for example.

Unfortunately, if using a will writer, there is often no recourse if something goes wrong. Will writers are usually small companies with no assets, so even if a client does bring a successful claim, the company can simply fold (perhaps later being reborn under another name) and the claim will not be paid.

Unlike will writers, solicitors are subject to strict regulation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). If there is any negligence on the part of a solicitor, insurance is in place to cover the client's losses. The SRA and the Law Society - the independent body that represents and governs solicitors in England and Wales - will also step in to arrange compensation if necessary. The risk of this protection being needed in the first place is also significantly lower, as solicitors must undertake stringent training, both before they qualify and every year afterwards.

All those at Hewitsons who deal with the preparation of wills are both solicitors and members of STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners), which provides extra regulation and extensive training, over and above that required to be a solicitor. You can therefore be sure that your will is prepared by highly experienced solicitors who specialise in this area of law.

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