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Ombudsman figures underline importance of using regulated will-writers
Latest figures revealed by the Legal Ombudsman have underlined the importance of using regulated, qualified professionals when writing a will so that individuals are protected against poor levels of service.
Natasha Molloy, head of the Wills & Probate department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said that of the 7,600 complaints resolved by the Ombudsman service in 2012-13, 12 per cent related to the writing of wills, making it the third most complained about area of law.
“That’s a huge number of unhappy and unsatisfied people,” said Natasha. “Moreover if will-writing is the third ranked in terms of complaints, it begs the question as to how many other individuals are being left with absolutely no recourse after being disappointed with the level of the service received from unregulated organisations.
“The additional distress and anxiety caused by the poor service those people received – that actually led to them to complain to the Ombudsman - will have come at a time when they could have most done without it.”
The figures were made public by Chief Ombudsman for England and Wales Adam Sampson, who urged anyone using legal services to shop around for legal advice.
“That’s a policy we wholeheartedly support,” said Natasha, an associate with Fentons. “Like most reputable firms, we want to ensure consumers are not left vulnerable by unregulated services, and instead encourage clients to seek professional legal advice that best suits their own individual needs when preparing a will.”
Natasha said the Ombudsman’s comments served to again highlight that will writing is one of the services which can be provided by unregulated individuals and organisations. “But the Ombudsman only has power to address disputes over the work of qualified legal representatives,” she said.
“Whilst the Ombudsman was established to give help to a legal client who might feel they have received a sub-standard service, that can only be applied if the service provider concerned is actually regulated by the Ombudsman. Some consumers of so-called ‘hybrid’ providers – a company which offers a legal service as part of a package, for example with an insurance policy – can think they're getting a legal service even though most of the work is being carried out by a person who is not regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority or other professional body.
“Some of these firms use ‘Legal’ in their name, even though most of the work is carried out by a non-legally qualified person,” she said. “The Ombudsman has no authority over such companies, and is powerless to help the client if something goes wrong or if they are unhappy with the service they receive.”
Natasha said that making a will is vital to ensure that an individual’s wishes can be followed after their death, and that issues such as the care of family members and the distribution of estate can be handled quickly and efficiently.
“The message is clear,” said Natasha. “For total peace of mind, people looking to make a will should seek professional advice from qualified, reputable and regulated solicitors.”
* Visit the Law Society website to find a local solicitor or law firm that is regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority using “Find a Solicitor”.
Read more at: BBC News
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