We’ve long believed that you don’t need a solicitor to write a decent will, and now the legal world has cottoned on. Do you think solicitors write better wills, and will new regulations change your mind?
Over a year ago, James Daley wrote about the dangers of using a poor quality will writer after Panorama exposed shocking shortcomings by some in the sector.
Things have moved on significantly since then and it looks like something may be done to improve matters.
Solicitors don’t always write better wills
First, the Legal Services Board (LSB) published a report in July concluding that greater regulation was in the consumer interest. Worryingly they found significant evidence of poor quality wills written both by solicitors and other will writers, so they recommended that all will writing should become what is known as a ‘reserved legal activity’.
In effect, this would mean that anyone providing a will-writing service would have to be approved by the LSB, the legal world’s regulatory body. In the past, Which? has opposed this, partly because a simple will isn’t a complicated thing to do yourself.
Also, in the past, it might have meant only solicitors could write wills – but, as the LSB consumer panel has discovered, solicitors don’t necessarily write better wills – a conclusion Which? first reached as far back as 1996.
But now, due to the Legal Services Act 2007, it’s possible for other bodies, including non-solicitor will-writing firms to become, ‘an approved regulator’. And if this happens, standards should rise across the sector.
The importance of probate
The Consumer Panel’s report has now prompted the LSB to fully investigate the market with a new call for evidence. But, importantly, they want to go wider than just will-writing to look into estate management and probate too.
We agree with this: the link between wills and probate is something the regulator should shine a bright light on. As Which? Money reported in April 2010, banks often write themselves into your will as your executor and then charge your heirs around 4% of your estate to manage probate.
For many people dealing with these issues it is understandably very tricky and sensitive – who likes to contemplate death? But it’s also complicated by the fact that the person who wrote the will is obviously not the person who then does the probate for that will. The only link between the two is likely to be the person who helped write the will – the will writer.
What are your will-writing experiences?
And that’s where you come in. To help us respond to the LSB we need to hear your experiences and views of writing a will and/or managing probate.
How did you write your will – on your own or with the help of a professional? Do you think solicitors write better wills than non-solicitor will writers? On probate, were you charged less or more than you were expecting? And, if you did probate yourself, was it straightforward and would you recommend others to opt for the DIY approach?