Will Writers Branded Rip Off Cowboys – Solicitor, Lee Dawkins, reviews the Legal Ombudsman’s report on the dangers of unregulated will writers and the implications this has for professional negligence claims and negligent wills.
The Legal Ombudsman has warned that thousands of ordinary consumers are being ripped off by unregulated will writers.
The Chief Ombudsman, Adam Sampson, has demanded that action be taken to ensure that consumers are not left vulnerable to unregulated legal services.
He warned of the perils of engaging the services of will-writing firms who aren’t regulated.
“Because of this, customers are left with little means of redress when things go wrong.
“We’ve seen similar confusion about claims management companies, with lots of consumers believing they’re getting a legal service even though most of the work is carried out by a non-authorised person. Again, we can’t help.”
‘Unregulated cowboys’ The legal ombudsman can only act in respect of complaints against solicitors.
The consumer organisation, Which? has been equally critical, along with the Law Society; both calling for more protection for consumers.
The chief executive of the Law Society said there was a gap in regulation which allows ‘unregulated cowboys’ to operate in areas like will writing.
This is damaging to consumers, he explained ‘because the unregulated providers are not insured, do not provide a compensation fund and are not covered by the Legal Ombudsman’s scheme for consumer redress.’
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that will writing is an important issue and welcomed the ombudsman’s report.
The irony is that the ‘cowboy’ will writers often charge more for their services than lawyers, seeking to take advantage of the unwary by charging add on for things like storage, which most solicitors provide for free.
Professional negligence solicitors are seeing an increasing number of negligent will claims being made against will writers, but the lack of insurance is a very worrying issue.
Head of professional negligence at Slee Blackwell Solicitors, Lee Dawkins believes that if the unregulated will writers are allowed to go unchecked then many innocent victims of their incompetence are going to be left entirely without redress.
‘If a will is negligently prepared by a solicitor then the claimant will at least have the peace of mind of knowing that there will be an insurance policy in place that will compensate them for their losses. However there is no such guarantee with the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ will writers. We are storing up problems for the future here and I would agree that action needs to be urgently taken.’