The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) have confirmed their bids to become regulators of will writers, amid criticism of the recommendation by the Legal Services Board (LSB) to leave estate administration out of regulation.
The LSB on Wednesday issued recommendations to the Lord Chancellor that will writing - but not estate administration - should become reserved legal activities. If the Lord Chancellor agrees within the 90-day deadline, will writing regulation will start in April 2015. Before the new regime takes effect, the LSB is to review applications by bodies willing to regulate will writing.
ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) will apply on behalf of CILEx to be designated as a regulator for will writing providers. CILEx believes that its regulatory arrangements will be flexible enough to guarantee the competence of will writers as well as that of probate and estate administration providers, chief executive Diane Burleigh said.
Commenting on the LSB's decision not to extend regulation to estate administration, IPS chairman Alan Kershaw said there is a danger of repeating the weakness of the current situation where only one part of the wills and probate process is regulated. While fraudulent practices can be countered by means other than regulation, the need for competence and integrity is the same in both will writing and estate administration. Public and consumer protection could be undermined if less competent and professional providers move into the administration of estates, which is the most profitable part of the process, Kershaw warned.
The CLC targets legal services that are accessed by consumers on a regular basis, so it would be a natural extension for CLC to apply to regulate will writers should the Lord Chancellor agree on reserving the activity, CLC chief executive Sheila Kumar said.
The CLC, which currently regulates estate administration through licensing of probate practitioners, was surprised, like others, at the LSB's decision not to recommend reserving estate administration along with will writing. The CLC believes the best protection of consumers could be ensured through proportionate regulation as in the case of probate and conveyancing services.