SRA produce will writing guidance
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued guidance to solicitors who prepare wills.
The guidance, which arises out of research carried out around 3 years ago, has only just been published because, the SRA state, they were awaiting the outcome of Legal Services Board proposals to make will writing a reserved legal activity. This would have required alterations to the Handbook rather than simply the production of guidance.
The SRA guidance is designed to remind solicitors of their responsibilities and the Outcomes that should be achieved when drawing wills and is in the light of evidence that revealed that nearly 25 per cent of wills drafted by solicitors failed to achieve the desired quality.
The reasons for this failure included:
- Inadequacy –the content of the will did not account for an estate fully, fails to make adequate provision or neglects to take certain outcomes in to consideration. It also includes wills which are legally invalid;
- Requirements – where the client’s requests had not been met (as specified in the testator questionnaire) through omission or conflicting specification;
- Legality – where the actions specified in the will were potentially illegal;
- Inconsistency – where the language, logic and/or content of the will was contradictory;
- Detail – where items, people and requests were described in insufficient detail;
- Presentation – where the language and format of the document was lacking As well as dealing with eliminating the reasons for failure, the guidance talks about training, storage and gifts given by clients.
The Outcomes which the guidance considers includes:
- the Outcomes in Chapter 1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 (the Code) in relation Client Care and to services provided and the information given to clients and potential clients, and in particular; O(1.2), O(1.4), O(1.5) and O(1.12);
- outcomes in Chapter 3 of the Code in relation to management of a business, particularly; O(7.2), O(7.3), O(7.6) and O(7.8);
- issues in relation to payments to the solicitor or someone else in the firm; and
- issues relating to the storage of wills.
Those seeking further guidance are referred to the STEP Code for Will Preparation in England & Wales