Regulator to weigh benefits and drawbacks of regulating will-writing activity

12 August 2010

The Legal Services Board (LSB) and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) are to consider the possibility of regulating will-writing services.

The topic has been on the LSB’s agenda since last October when the Law Society of England & Wales published the Hunt Review of the Regulation of Legal Services.

Hunt recommended that: “the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the professional body of the Law Society should discuss with the LSB the possibility of extending the edges of the regulatory “net” to cover will-writing and all probate work.”

However, little has been done since – not least because the available evidence in favour of reserving will-writing to “authorised persons” is more anecdotal than systematic.

STEP subsequently attended an LSB workshop held to bring together a range of organisations with different interests and experiences of the will writing industry to share knowledge and scope the LSB examination of the failings that may harm consumers and different options for protecting against them.

Mark Pratt of the Office of Fair Trading gave a presentation explicitly suggesting that a decision to tighten regulation of will-writing should only be considered if there was real evidence that the status quo is unsatisfactory, and that a change would be better than any of the alternative courses (which could include retaining the status quo).

Accordingly, the OFT wants a cost-benefit assessment to be done before any decisions are made.

So, as a first step in the process, the LSB has asked its expert consumer panel to collect evidence on the likely impact of reserving.

This will be followed by discussions on a “more rapid timetable” than the LSB’s usual cautious pace.

STEP is closely involved in the discussions and will report on further developments.




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