Ministry of Justice rejects proposals to regulate will-writing

The government has rejected the Legal Services Board's recommendation that will-writing should be regulated - an announcement which has been branded “extremely disappointing” by Remember a Charity.

After a two-year investigation, the Board submitted its final decision on the regulation of will-writing, estate administration and probate activities in February. It recommended that the Legal Services Act 2007 be amended to include regulation of will-writing but not to include regulation of estate administration or probate services.

Following the decision by Chris Grayling, acting in his capacity as the Lord Justice, David Edmonds, chairman of the LSB said: “Naturally we are disappointed by the government's decision. However it is their decision alone to make and we will study the details and respond in due course.”

The LSB will now work with Ministry of Justice officials, consumer groups and providers to “ensure that the issues are tackled and that consumers' confidence in the market for will-writing services is increased”, Edmonds added.

The proposals had been supported by Remember a Charity, and following Grayling's decision Rob Cope (pictured), director of Remember a Charity, said: “This is extremely disappointing news. We believe that regulation would have given consumers greater confidence that their wills were being drawn up by suitably-qualified professionals and that they would have access to proper recompense if things went wrong.

“For charities, this would have removed some of the barriers that prevent people making wills and therefore help drive legacy income.”

Legacy income is currently worth almost £2bn a year to the charity sector. But the number of High Court cases relating to trusts, wills and probate involving charities has grown - between 2005 and 2007 there was just one case, but from 2008 to 2009 there were 13.

Cope added: “We will continue to support the Legal Services Board in their work with the Ministry of Justice officials, consumer groups, providers and other stakeholders to ensure that the issues are tackled.”

In the decision notice, Grayling MP, who is also Secretary of State for Justice, said that the report “does not adequately demonstrate that reservation (of will writing activities) is the best solution, or that alternative measures have been sufficiently exhausted in seeking to address this detriment”.

He suggested that there should be more targeted guidance for the legal profession, voluntary regulation schemes and codes of practice and better education of the public about the different types of provider.

The government is also currently looking at how to simplify the regulatory landscape for legal services which includes considering whether to bring will-writing within the scope of legal services regulation. Grayling said: “It would not be beneficial to add to the complexity of the regulatory landscape in advance of the outcome of this work.”