Unregulated will-writers and the risks of using them

Rebecca Parr

Writing a Will is an important step that many of us should take as we begin families, see significant changes in our life circumstances, or begin owning substantial assets. The main benefit of writing a Will is that when we die our family, friends or chosen charities inherit our assets according to our wishes. These assets can be property, money or even personal possessions such as jewellery.

The specific wording used when a Will is drafted is crucial, because if the Will is unclear in any way, or contradictory, then this can create a number of issues. A poorly drafted Will can result in the beneficiaries (those benefitting from the Will) pursuing civil claims over the deceased’s estate. These sorts of claims can be time consuming, very distressing and costly.

Most people will see a solicitor to have their Will drafted. Solicitors operate under a strict code of conduct and are regulated by the Solicitors' Regulation Authority, and solicitors have to have professional indemnity insurance to compensate people, in case they make mistakes.

This can be contrasted with the increasing number of "will-writers" or "will-draftsmen", who do not need any specific legal qualifications to be able to give themselves these titles, and who are drafting wills in increasing numbers.

These "will-writers" are unregulated and require no qualifications to begin drafting Wills for members of the public. This means that many of the Wills prepared by these individuals or businesses can be poorly drafted. As many are uninsured, there is little redress for beneficiaries or loved ones, if it is discovered that a Will has been drafted wrongly, after someone has died.

Worse yet, there have been several cases recently of unregulated will-writers stealing from their clients. Unlike solicitors, who are audited by organisations such as LEXCEL which require certain standards to be met before accreditation, "will-writers" do not have to account to anyone or any public body or regulator, leaving the opportunity for some to take advantage of clients.

There have been discussions and recommendations recently from professional bodies, to regulate these will-writers. However the Lord Chancellor has been unwilling to accept these recommendations due to the fact that allowing alternative providers to solicitors for will-drafting services, gives the consumer choice, and can be cheaper.

Samuels Solicitors LLP, based in Barnstaple, North Devon, has an experienced and highly qualified team of wills and probate lawyers, ready to assist clients with a whole range of problems which can arise in relation to the administration of estates, or probate, as it is also commonly known.

We assist clients with drafting wills, going through the probate procedures, setting up and administering trusts, preparing powers of attorney and dealing with disputes about inheritance and wills, which unfortunately are becoming more common, in part because of the number of unregulated will-writers setting up businesses.

If you need a will, if you are dealing with an estate, or if you have a dispute about your inheritance, contact us to discuss how we can help.