Following a series of cases involving unqualified will writers, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has announced that it has approved a Code of Practice which will apply to members of the Institute of Professional Will Writers (IPW).
The code of practice will apply to the 190 members of the IPW. Whilst the code of practice is to be welcomed, it should be remembered that 80 per cent of will writers are not members of the IPW.
Will writers are not subject to compulsory regulation and the market is awash with organisations and individuals offering will-writing services who have no relevant qualifications or proven competence.
The code of practice requires IPW members to pass tests of competence, to protect customers’ deposits in the event that they are unable to provide the promised service and to provide an independent redress scheme.
Regrettably, the Government has not stepped in to prohibit the preparation of wills by unqualified will writers and there is as yet no legal requirement for any will writer (including those who are members of the IPW scheme) to be covered by comprehensive indemnity insurance for their clients’ protection. Solicitors who undertake this work have passed stringent academic and professional examinations and undergone rigorous professional training, and are also required to have professional indemnity insurance.
Problems with the services provided by will writers have abounded in recent years, with complaints of wills being lost and errors in drafting being regrettably common. Recently a will writer was convicted of stealing £80,000 from an estate of which he was the executor.