The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) is failing to take action against solicitors who produced sub-standard wills for their clients, according to the Chairman of the Legal Services Consumer Panel.
In a letter to the Legal Services Board, Elisabeth Davies said research had shown solicitors to be just as likely as unregulated will-writers to produce incompetently drafted wills. But though she said she is heartened by membership body initiatives to correct problems in the unregulated sector, the SRA does not appear to have taken any action against offending solicitors. A mystery shopping exercise conducted by the Legal Services Consumer Panel last year found that about one in every five wills prepared by both unregulated will-writing companies and solicitors were failed by expert assessors.
Both the Consumer Panel and the Legal Services Board itself are in favour of stricter scrutiny of the will-writing industry, including a statutory regulation scheme for currently unregulated non-solicitor firms. The Board is working with the Ministry of Justice to develop this scheme, and Davies is urging them to press forward as fast as possible with it.
‘We are acutely conscious that consumers will continue to lack adequate protections until regulation is introduced so it is important that this happens speedily,’ she wrote. ‘In the meantime, we encourage you to continue to seek improvements from the existing regulators and trade associations operating in this sector.’