This page on the Which? website highlights various parties’ attempts to bring will writing under some sort of regulation. This idea is not new and pops up every now and again after someone finds they’ve either been taken advantage of – for example by a will writer claiming a non-existent change in the law requires amendments to their will – or a problem arises after the event.
The trouble is that regulation inevitably brings cost. At the moment will writers compete with various parties, including solicitors. There are various parties involved in providing legal services in areas which are not reserved (ie only solicitors or barristers can do them) - will writers are one example, banks providing probate services another, the legal department of a big company yet another. The fact is that lawyers have some unique selling points – we’ve been through years of training, have a professional body which does checks not only on our qualifications but on our criminal record etc, and we have insurance in the unlikely event things go wrong. If people are aware of the difference in what they are getting from an unqualified person and a solicitor, perhaps they should be allowed the choice.
ABSs will change things around slightly, allowing non-lawyer owned firms to employ solicitors to provide their service for them, in an effort to combine branding and expertise.
I suspect many of those making noises about increasing regulation are actually those professionals who are already regulated, seeking a level playing-field in terms of costs and restrictions on practice. It can sometimes be quite difficult to persuade people that the additional expertise and protection that solicitors can offer is worth a little more expenditure.
Wills are a good example – whilst a person’s affairs can be quite complicated, the aim is to produce a document which is as simple as possible but which fulfils their wishes. I think sometimes people may look at a will and think ‘I could have done that’ or ‘my bank offers this for free’, without realising the knowledge that goes into making something that simple, or the fact that the free will service from the bank may include the bank as an executor, incurring extra charges for the estate.
I’m confident that our fixed-fee probate service is both great value for money and provides the sort of expertise and experience that you would expect a solicitor to provide.