Law Society welcomes proposed consumer protection for those making a will But failure to regulate estate administration ‘risks consumers losing everything’

13 Feb, 2013

The oversight regulator of lawyers in England and Wales has recommended to Government that will writing activities should be regulated, in response to a long-running campaign by the Law Society. 

The Law Society has welcomed the move as essential for consumer protection, but has warned that the proposed changes should go further, extending regulation to estate administration – the distribution of the estate of a deceased person.

 

The Law Society continues to caution consumers that their friends and relatives risk losing everything if they allow unqualified and unregulated will writers to have full control of their estate’s assets.  The Society highlighted the potential risks that can arise during the estate administration process in its submission to the Legal Services Board’s call for evidence into will writing, estate administration and probate activities.

 

Law Society President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff (pictured) responded to the Legal Services Board’s recommendations to the Lord Chancellor. She said:

 

“We welcome the recommendations to regulate will writing activities, however we remain concerned that there is no regulation or monitoring in place to ensure that administrators do not misappropriate the estate’s assets.

 

“We submitted evidence to the LSB of people who have been prosecuted for running off with estates, among other problems that have been caused by unregulated people doing this work.  At the moment unregulated individuals are charged with distributing considerable sums of money.  It is becoming more difficult to assist consumers to identify reputable service providers. The evidence hints at many more cases where beneficiaries do not obtain what they should.”

 

The Society is also urging the LSB to ensure that all those seeking the services of a will writer are entitled to the same minimum protections – those already in place for solicitors’ clients.

 

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff added: “Choosing a solicitor ensures a high level of service and expertise plus guaranteed consumer protection. Regulation of all providers of will writing services will only be effective if it is of a similar standard to that already applied to solicitors.

 

“All solicitors are subject to strict regulation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to ensure that they deliver the best service to their clients. The public are protected by solicitors’ mandatory  insurance and the Law Society compensation fund, for the rare occasions when things go wrong.  Consumers have every right to expect such guarantees. Two tier regulation, which falls short of offering similar protection to all those seeking help in making a will, would be confusing to consumers.” 

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