Pressure mounts for action on unregulated will writers

Warwickshire people could be at risk from companies providing unregulated services such as will writing, the Legal Ombudsman has claimed.

And Sofia Tayton, an associate in the private client department at Lodders, said it vindicated the Stratford-upon-Avon law firm’s ongoing campaign to highlight the problem.

In his first report, Chief Ombudsman for England and Wales Adam Sampson said the most complaints he saw concerned conveyancing, family law and wills. He called for action to be taken to ensure consumers were not left vulnerable by unregulated services.

At present only a tiny fraction of legal services must be provided by a qualified lawyer. Many others including will writing, divorce, employment and immigration can be done by unqualified and unregulated individuals and organisations.

Mrs Tayton said: “The report confirms what we have been saying for many years – will-writing firms aren’t regulated, and, because of this, customers are left with little means of redress when things go wrong.

“It is similar to the outrage over claims management companies, with lots of consumers believing they’re getting a legal service even though most of the work is carried out by non-authorised personnel.

“This is a scandal which has been going on far too long, with successive governments reluctant to act because it is perceived as something of a minefield.

“Yet some of these will-writing businesses have a poor standard of work and  care nothing about their clients. These people are a menace and it can lead to all sorts of problems which all too often reputable law firms find themselves asked to sort out.

“If people want a quality service then they need a properly qualified lawyer who knows what they are doing.”

And she warned that supposedly cheap will-writers often cost an arm and a leg once their full charges were totted up.

The Legal Ombudsman was appointed in October 2010 and can only act on complaints from those using the services of qualified lawyers.

Unregulated providers are typically not insured and do not provide a compensation fund.