Government launches Wills investigation
CMA identifies areas of concern in unregulated legal services, including Will writing and prepaid probate plans.
The government’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation following complaints about unregulated Will writing, online divorce and prepaid probate services.
Anyone can legally write a Will. Will drafting is not a regulated service. As such, firms offering Will writing may not use the same established best practices as a firm of solicitors. The Will drafter may have very little legal knowledge or lack the expertise required to spot potential issues.
The CMA also has other concerns including consumers being misled by advertising that offers a very low initial fee, but does not communicate that final costs can be far greater. In contrast, most solicitors will provide a fixed fee quote for drafting a will or providing inheritance tax advice.
Another area of investigation is the use of potentially unfair contract terms, where an unregulated Will writer may seek to exclude liability, fail to provide cancellation rights, or automatically appoint the firm as executors – usually for a fee. There are also reports of pressure selling and coercion of vulnerable clients.
Pre-Paid probate plans
The investigation will also probe the recently developed service of prepaid probate plans. Clients pay fees upfront in the hope that following their death the expenses of administering their estate will be covered. Once again, there are concerns about pressure selling in addition to a lack of transparency. There is also the possibility that these prepaid plans are simply unnecessary or fail to serve their purpose, potentially leading to delays and bereaved families being left unable to settle a bill or sell property.
The CMA is also investigating online divorce services from unregulated providers. The investigation here will scrutinize claims about the simplicity of services and pricing in addition to inadequate quality of service and sending court papers late.
Risks to clients
Unregulated legal services can offer many alternatives that are innovative and convenient for consumers. They can be a lower cost option too. However, operating outside of a regulatory framework can expose the consumer to risks. Unregulated firms are unlikely to be insured in the same way as a firm of solicitors. There may be no recourse or compensation if they make a crucial mistake. Also, if a firm ceases trading, there is potential for clients’ money and documents, including their will, to be lost and unrecoverable.
Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, commenting on the investigation said, “These services are essential to people often at the most challenging times of their lives… These may not be frequent purchases, but they are life-changing. That’s why it’s so important that we investigate so that people can select the right legal service for them…”
Thorne Segar’s Wills mission
At Thorne Segar we believe that everyone should have a professionally drafted Will. Many clients have worked very hard for what they’ve got and want to benefit future generations or a cause they care deeply about.
A professionally drafted Will provides great peace of mind your wishes will be respected. It can also make obtaining probate so much simpler and can save a great deal of money and hassle. That’s why Thorne Segar provide Wills at an accessible price point, offer free local home visits and participate in charity Will schemes.
Make an appointment with one of our friendly team or request a free home visit in the West Somerset and Exmoor area.
01643 703234 email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or someone you know has been affected by the issues raised in this blog post, please contact the Competition and Markets Authority by email: UnregulatedLegalServicesTeam@cma.gov.uk