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British Public Vote for Regulation of Will Writing Industry

Why using a qualified will writer makes sense

Writing your will is one of the most important financial transactions you will ever undertake. Unfortunately, the industry is rife with unqualified, inexperienced will writers, putting your estate at risk

Writing a will is hugely important and is potentially one of the biggest financial transactions you will undertake. Having a valid will in place helps to protect your estate when your die, ensuring that is dealt with as you wish. It also helps to make things easier for friends and family at a time of great distress. With so much riding on it, you want to make sure that your will is in competent hands. So, it’s little surprise that the public have backed moves to introduce regulation for will writers.

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Why do we need a will?
Almost 60% of people in the UK currently don’t have a will. However, having a will is extremely important, and not having one in place could have severe implications for you and your family.

Writing a will helps to ensure that, after your death, your estate will be dealt with as you wish – whether that’s splitting your assets between family and friends, leaving everything to one special person, or donating the whole lot to charity.

Without a will, it is up to the law to decide how your estate is distributed. This might not be in line with your wishes, and could cause considerable distress and upset. At an already emotional and difficult time, a will can make things much easier for those who are left behind.

Not having a will could also have financial implications. Writing a will can help to reduce the amount of inheritance tax that is payable on the value of your assets.

Given the importance of having a valid will, you want to make sure it’s in the hands of a competent and experienced professional. Unfortunately, there is no regulation in the market, and research has discovered significant problems with dishonesty and incompetence.

Public backs regulation

Unsurprisingly, many consumers are unhappy about this state of affairs, and a recent survey commissioned by the Law Society found that over half of the respondents were in favour of regulating the will writing industry.

Regulation of will writers is something that solicitors and the Legal Services Board have been calling for for several years. However, their efforts have been thwarted by the Government, which has rejected the calls.

This means that, currently, anyone can set themselves up as a will writer, with no qualifications or expertise in the field. And, in fact, around one third of wills written in the UK have been prepared by someone other than a solicitor, including financial advisors, will writing companies, charities, and via online self completion wills.

So, why is this a problem?

Risks of unregulated will writing

It is possible to draft a will yourself, or with someone who is not a solicitor, however this is not usually advisable. Complicated modern family structures often mean that drafting a will is not as straightforward as it once was, and asking anyone other than expert to help put it together is an extremely risky course of action.

Each year, around 38,000 UK families are affected by badly drafted wills, and using a non-expert to draft your will can leave you open to a range of problems, including:

Extra fees – many unregulated will-writers advertise their services at a low cost, only to charge more further down the line for ‘extras’ such as review charges, additional clauses and storage fees.

Dishonest claims – will-writers sometimes make untrue claims about their experience and qualifications, claiming to be regulated, insured, and even to be qualified solicitors. They have also been known to make untrue claims about changes in the law in order to encourage people to take up their services.

Disappearing wills – research has found that many of these will-writers go out of business. Despite paying for will storage, many customers find that their will disappears along with the will-writer.

Errors – the biggest risk when it comes to using unqualified will-writers is that your will could be deemed invalid. This is largely down to drafting errors such typos, errors in designing trusts and using inappropriate standard clauses.

As well as writing your will, it’s also worth thinking about who will be the executors of your estate. There are also calls for more regulation in this area, but many people still prefer to choose an adult child, spouse or trusted friend. If you go down this route, consider taking out executor insurance to protect your executor, and your estate, from any inadvertent errors.

Nobody likes to spend too much time thinking about dying, and writing a will can seem like a complicated, unpleasant process. However, putting in the time now, and putting it in the hands of an expert, could save your family a great deal of stress and heartache when you die, and will help ensure that your wishes are met.

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