Report stresses importance of using solicitors when writing wills

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Report stresses importance of using solicitors when writing wills

18th July 2011

The first report by the Legal Ombudsman has revealed that thousands of people are being ‘ripped off’ by companies providing unregulated services such as will writing.

Chief Ombudsman for England and Wales Adam Sampson has this week called for action to ensure consumers are not left vulnerable by unregulated services, after revealing most of the complaints he saw concerned conveyancing, family law and the writing of wills.

Natasha Molloy, head of the Wills & Probate department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the report underlined the importance of seeking professional, regulated legal advice when preparing a will.

“The ombudsman’s report highlights that will writing is one of the services which can be provided by unqualified and unregulated individuals and organisations,” said Natasha, an associate with the firm. “But clearly his findings are that those customers using such a service are left with little or no means of redress when things go wrong.

“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,” said Natasha. “Clearly the message from the report is that for peace of mind, people looking to make a will should seek professional advice from reputable and regulated solicitors.”

Consumer organisation Which? and the Law Society have backed the ombudsman and called for more protection for customers.

“The ombudsman was established to give any legal client an avenue of help if they feel they have received a sub-standard service,” said Natasha. “But that can only be applied if the individual service provider is actually regulated by the ombudsman. Some consumers of the so-called ‘hybrid’ providers – where a company 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 carried out by a non-authorised person. The ombudsman has no authority over such companies, and is powerless to help the client.”

Natasha welcomed calls for the government and regulators to address the current lack of clarity and provide a clear and straightforward route of redress for all consumers.

“The message is clear,” she said. “For total peace of mind and reassurance that their wishes will be carried out, people looking to write a will should contact qualified and regulated experts.”

Read more at: BBC