The Legal Services Board (LSB) has started a final consultation, proposing that Will writing and estate administration, along with extraction of the Grant of Probate, should be added to the list of reserved activities in the legal sector in England and Wales.
The consultation, which is running for six weeks until 8 November 2012, highlights three major conclusions:
- Will writing, probate andestate administration should be reserved activities, primarily to protect consumers.
- The new regulation should be risk-based, proportionate and flexible so that a range of different providers will continue to serve the market.
- Existing regulation needs improvement and better targeting, meaning that existing licensing bodies should be re-designated to encompass the newly reserved activities.
Of the three activities, only probate is reserved across the entire country, Will writing is reserved only in Scotland, but not in England and Wales, and estate services are not reserved in any UK jurisdiction. Professional societies have gathered significant evidence and the Legal Services Consumer Panel confirmed unsatisfactory practices in Will writing and estate administration involving unregulated providers and law firms, necessitating the reservation to deliver consistent consumer protection and improve consumer confidence in choosing and using legal services.
In its first consultation document, opened for 12 weeks from 23 April 2012, the LSB proposed that both Will writing and estate administration, along with auxiliary legal activities, should be reserved to qualified professionals where a fee is levied. Various professional organisations covering chartered and certified accountants, Will writers and the Society of Trust And Estate Practitioners (STEP) submitted their comments to the LSB's initial proposals, with most of the responses supporting the reservation. STEP agreed with the LSB's conclusions but stressed that the activities should not be reserved only to the legal profession, which would hamper legitimate competition.
After collecting and reviewing responses to its final consultation, the LSB will make recommendations to the Lord Chancellor at the beginning of 2013.