Will writing activities should become subject to regulation, the Legal Services Board (LSB) said today.
Following a two-year investigation, the LSB has written to the Lord Chancellor to recommend that the list of reserved legal activities be amended to include advice upon and preparation and drafting of a will or codicil.
The organisation believes that this would reduce the risks that consumers currently face when using such services and is a "proportionate response".
Specifically, the LSB said that its investigation had uncovered a raft of evidence that the market is working to the detriment of consumers and providers alike, and contrary to the statutory regulatory objectives outlined in the Legal Services Act 2007. It claims that alternatives to statutory regulation have been unsuccessful.
David Edmonds, chairman of the LSB, pointed out that this is the first time it has made a recommendation to bring new legal activities within the regulatory scope of the Legal Services Act.
If accepted, the LSB's recommendation will give users of all will writing providers access to the Legal Ombudsman, ensuring better protection and consistent access to redress.
Regulators would be required to supervise providers by identifying and targeting risks and taking swift enforcement action if things go wrong. Traditional law firms and new forms of service provider would both be subject to equivalent regulation.
During its investigation, the LSB also looked into whether estate administration activities and probate activities should be regulated.
In a change to the position set out in the LSB's provisional report, the organisation is now recommending that estate administration activities should not be added to the list of reserved activities. After weighing up the reported risk of fraud in estate administration, it concluded that statutory regulation would not be effective in preventing what amounts to criminal behaviour.
Instead, the LSB wants to see a range of policy initiatives to raise standards and help the market work well for consumers. This could include major providers working together to come up with voluntary schemes designed to promote standards and provide minimum protections for consumers.
In its final recommendation, the LSB confirmed its provisional opinion that the Lord Chancellor should not amend the list of reserved activities to remove probate activities. It said that these activities are currently subject to regulation and no additional evidence was found to warrant changing the status quo.