Legal Services Consumer Panel
The Consumer Panel carried out a major investigation into whether will-writing should be regulated, following concerns over the quality of wills and poor sales practices. We issued a call for evidence and commissioned an independent consumer research report in partnership with the Legal Services Board, the Office of Fair Trading and the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This included a mystery shopping exercise to assess the quality of wills. The Panel's final report uncovered defective wills on a shocking scale and evidence of bad sales practices. We therefore recommended that will-writing services should be regulated.
Following our recommendation, the Legal Services Board announced a statutory investigation into the regulation of will-writing and expanded this to also consider the case for regulating probate and estate administration services. In November 2011, the Panel submitted an interim response based on an analysis of probate complaints received by the Legal Ombudsman. In March 2012, our final response to the Legal Services Board called for probate and estate administration services to be regulated alongside will-writing.
In April 2012, the Legal Services Board consulted on proposals to regulate all three activities. Following the consultation, the LSB recommended to the Lord Chancellor that will-writing should be added to the list of reserved legal activities, although not estate administration. Further information can be found on the LSB's website.
In May 2013 the Lord Chancellor decided not to regulate will-writing services. The Panel is extremely disappointed by this decision, which is terrible news for consumers. Given the sheer weight of evidence of consumer detriment and the wide consensus backing regulation we consider this decision makes no sense. Looking forward, we will do what we can to make self-regulation succeed, including by working with the Legal Ombudsman to switch on its voluntary jurisdiction.