Reviewing the scope of regulation: will-writing

Nothing stops a firm or an individual from delivering most legal activities to the public. There is no requirement to demonstrate that a firm or an individual are appropriately trained, can deliver a good service and that complaints will be properly dealt with.

There is only a short list of legal activities that can be ring fenced and undertaken by lawyers and businesses that have been authorised and are overseen to do so. These are the ‘reserved legal activities and are listed in the Legal Services Act 2007.

Most legal services bought by the public are not on this reserved list. Services not listed include, for example, will writing and estate administration.

There is however some consumer protection in the fact that lawyers themselves (solicitors, barristers, notaries etc.) are regulated in all their legal work regardless of whether the activity they are working on is on the “reserved” list or not.

This has resulted though in an uneven spread of regulation for the same activity, leaving consumers uncertain over the level of protection they receive and placing a bigger burden on lawyers that other businesses.

Will-writing and estate administration

We completed our investigating into whether writing wills and administering estates should be subject to legal services regulation for the first time and whether probate activities should continue to be subject to legal services regulation.

Our main conclusions were:

  • Will-writing activities: we have recommended that will-writing activities should be subject to regulation so that the significant risk consumers currently face when using these critical services is reduced
  • Estate administration activities: we have not recommended that estate administration activities should be subject to regulation
  • Probate activities: probate activities are currently subject to regulation and we do not have evidence proving that this position should be changed.

We made a recommendation in February 2013 to the Lord Chancellor that all will-writing activities should be regulated however he declined to accept this recommendation in May of that year.

For more information about the LSB’s will-writing recommendation and the process which was gone through to arrive at the decision to recommend regulation please click here.