You don?t have to delve too far into the headlines to see that Will-writing has had a lot of coverage recently. Why? A report published by the Legal Services Consumer Panel has recommended regulation for this sector of the law. Hooray, at last I say. It has only been 20+ years that the Institute of Professional Will-writers (IPW) has campaigned for this to happen, so as far as I am concerned, it is welcomed with open arms.?
You only have to look at my profile page to see why. Regulation is good for the consumer because the service you will get is of an acceptably high standard. It is also good for IPW members too because it will shrink the market and cut out all those unqualified practitioners that have muddied the waters for us good guys.?
The IPW has issued a 10 point checklist to help you identify a good will provider from a bad one. In addition to this, let?s face it, when you meet the provider you?ve chosen for the first time you?ll get a reasonable gut-feel for whether the practitioner knows what they?re talking about and whether you want to do business with them. Trust your instincts and use this check list to go into that first meeting ?well armed?.?
- Understand the market. There are 3 kinds of providers in the market place ? solicitors, banks and independent Will-writers. All solicitors are regulated. Some Will-writers will be regulated through the IPW?s Code of Practice and this is approved by the Office of Fair Trading. All those who are not members of the IPW will only be subject to a weaker form of regulation, or indeed no regulation at all.??
- Does your Will-provider know what they are talking about? Ask to see evidence of their expertise, if they refuse or are offended by your request ? walk away. IPW members have to go through a rigorous training process and qualify by examination. Be wary as there are unqualified Will-writers out there, it is also rather surprising to think that a solicitor can become qualified without studying Wills.??
- Check that your Will-provider has professional indemnity insurance. This will compensate your beneficiaries if a mistake is made in your Will. It is mandatory for all solicitors to have this insurance and it is mandatory for all members of the IPW to have this cover too.?
- If it looks too good to be true, then that?s exactly what it?ll be, so be wary of low cost Wills, special offers and prices quoted from ?x ?for a basic Will?. We all know you get what you pay for these days, so do you really want to chance saving a few quid for a cut down service? As a rule of thumb, a Will for a single person should cost no less than ?100 or ?200 for a couple (excluding VAT) and make sure you know if VAT is included or not.?
- Ask to see a full price list. Other services, such as Lasting Powers of Attorney and trusts may also be to your advantage but some providers will charge extortionate prices for these services because they are not part of the headline cost of making a Will. You need to understand what the full cost of the service to you could be, because the cheapest Will may end up being the most expensive route in the long run, if that makes sense.??
- If you see a Will-provider in your home, the law gives you a 7 day cooling off period during which you can change your mind, but you can waive this right if for instance you need your Will completed urgently – so?be suspicious if you are asked to waive this right. Also, ask if you can change your mind without being liable for further costs.??
- If you?re asked to pay for the service before it is completed, find out what happens if your Will-provider fails to deliver, or if it is delivered late, or you?re simply unhappy with it. Any member of the IPW who collects a payment ?up front? has to be part of a prepayment scheme run by the IPW that either provides a refund or ensures the service is completed by another member.?
- You don?t have to appoint the Will-provider as an executor in your Will. A lot of people will appoint family or friends to handle their affairs, and if they need help, they can always employ a professional to help with some or all of the work at that time.?
- NEVER prepay a fee at the time of making your Will, for someone to handle your estate in the future, how can you be sure the firm will still be in around at the time of your death and therefore be able to provide the service that you have paid for??
- Ask what happens if things go wrong. If you choose a solicitor you can refer matters to the Legal Ombudsman and if you choose a member of the IPW you can refer matters to the Estate Planning Arbitration Scheme (EPAS). Both are completely independent.
So at the end of the day you have a choice; most of us have experienced the kind of fees the banks and solicitors charge, IPW members are a highly credible alternative without breaking your wallet.
?a)????? The Institute of Professional Willwriters was formed in 1991 with the aim of setting high standards for individuals and firms offering Will writing services. It currently has 800 individual members representing 250 firms. More information about the IPW can be found at www.ipw.org.uk
?b)????? In 2010 the IPW became the 10th organisation to obtain approval of its Code of Practice from the Office of Fair Trading under its Consumer Codes Approval Scheme.? http://www.oft.gov.uk/news-and-updates/press/2010/56-10
?c)?????? The full report by the Legal Services Consumer Panel on regulating Will-writing can be found at http://www.legalservicesconsumerpanel.org.uk/publications/research_and_reports/documents/ConsumerPanel_WillwritingReport_Final.pdf
?d)????? Comments made by the Legal Ombudsman can be found at