The Legal Services Board (LSB) is this week recommending to the Lord Chancellor that will-writing activities should be made subject to regulation, so that the significant risks consumers currently face when using these critical services are reduced.
This recommendation concludes a two year investigation by the LSB. The investigation, under sections 24 and 26 of the Legal Services Act 2007, also considered the regulation of estate administration and probate activities.
The LSB’s main conclusions are:
The LSB found comprehensive evidence that the market is not working efficiently – to the detriment of consumers and providers alike. Alternatives to statutory regulation have been tried but have not been successful. The LSB’s recommendation, if accepted, will:
- give consumers better protection and consistent access to redress by allowing access to the Legal Ombudsman for consumers of all will-writing providers;
- increase competition by creating a level-playing field between traditional law firms and new forms of service provider, making both subject to equivalent regulation;
- require regulators to develop proportionate and targeted approaches to supervising providers by identifying and targeting risks and taking swift enforcement action if things go wrong.
Estate administration activities
The LSB considered carefully the reported risk of fraud in estate administration but has concluded based on the available evidence that statutory regulation would not be effective in preventing what amounts to criminal behavior. The LSB is instead recommending a range of policy initiatives to raise standards and help the market work well for consumers including:
- major providers working together to produce voluntary schemes to promote standards and provide minimum protections for consumers;
- improving the information available to consumers when they purchase these services to help them choose with confidence and understand potential risks.
Probate activities are currently subject to regulation and the LSB has concluded that no additional evidence has been presented to us to warrant changing this.