Ombudsman calls for government re-think on wills
Chief Legal Ombudsman, Adam Sampson, has called on the government to consider other options so that consumers have access to his scheme’s help when things go wrong. He said:
“Wills can be prepared by anyone in principle. For people on a budget, this creates headaches about the standard of service one could reasonably expect. It also means some people will have access to help if things go wrong, while others won’t.
“Failing a move to regulate all will writers; we want the government to at least consider a voluntary ombudsman scheme into which service providers can opt themselves. Provision already exists for the Lord Chancellor to make this happen.”
Buying a will is fraught with risk and uncertainty according to a recent Legal Ombudsman report. Most worryingly, it states, a lack of regulatory oversight means thousands of consumers might have nowhere to turn if their will was poorly written or if they’ve been ripped off by the service provider.
The Ombudsman states that it helped to resolve more than a thousand (1,000) wills and probate related complaints last year, mainly as a result of excessive costs, delays and a failure on the part of the lawyer to follow instructions.
For services provided by non-lawyers, people have no access to the Ombudsman since, by law, it is only allowed to look at complaints about regulated service providers. With research suggesting some 180,000 wills each year are being written by non-lawyers, the Ombudsman is concerned that this leaves consumers exposed.
Last year the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, chose not to make will writing a reserved legal activity; contrary to advice from the Legal Services Board, which believes that regulation would improve conditions for consumers.