Unregulated will-writers and building case studies

The Law Society has asked members to inform it of any problems their clients may have experienced with unregulated will-writers.The call for evidence is in response to the investigation of will-writing by the Legal Services Board (LSB). There’s a strong feeling among official bodies and consumer organisations that this is a serious issue but examples of malpractice seem to be few and far between.

That’s why the Society is looking for cases involving what it described in a recent press release as ‘nightmare will-writers’. It has been campaigning for stricter regulation and wants as much evidence as possible to put before the LSB.

In theory, there should be plenty of cases to highlight. The Law Society carried out a survey in 2006 of its members who specialised in wills and probate.

There were 443 replies from across the country. More than 60% of respondents said will-writers had become more active in their area and more than 70% said that some of their clients had reported problems after using the services of unregulated will-writers.

All that is needed now are some suitable case studies. The need is quite urgent if the Law Society campaign is to succeed because the LSB so far seems far from convinced.

When it announced in the summer that it was going to look at the issue there were reports in the media suggesting that will-writing malpractice was widespread. The LSB moved quickly to distance itself from such reports, pointing out that only 7% of people use a will-writer who is not a solicitor.

The chair of the Legal Services Consumer panel, Dianne Hayter, was quoted in the media as saying regulation ‘could result in less choice and higher prices for consumers, so the panel will only recommend this step if there is convincing evidence that will-writing businesses are failing consumers.

‘Finding evidence of badly written wills and underhand sales practices will be crucial to establishing this.’

So there you have it: provide the proof, or unregulated will-writers can carry on unchallenged and encroach even further into your territory – as if you weren’t already facing enough challenges from every direction.

Hopefully, the case studies will emerge. If so, they will not only be useful as evidence, they will also be immensely helpful for publicity and marketing.

Whether you’re writing press releases, blog articles or marketing material for your website, being able to quote from real life examples will bring your work to life and help you reach the reader on an emotional as well as an intellectual level.

It’s important, of course, to quote facts, figures and statistics when bringing the issue to the public’s attention – but it’s the human touch that really drives the message home. For example, show us the example of the family who were forced into a dispute over their inheritance because a parent’s will was drawn up incorrectly by an incompetent will-writer and so declared invalid. This will really get people’s attention

Or what about the person who was attracted by the promise of a low cost will only to find that the price suddenly escalated out of all proportion because of hidden charges?

There’s also concern over ‘vanishing wills’ which cannot be traced because the will-writer is no longer in business and never made the proper arrangements in the first place.

How about unscrupulous cross-selling, with some vulnerable person setting out thinking they were making a will and then finding themselves being pressurised about other services such as lasting powers attorney, trusts and so on?

Ideally, it would be helpful if you were able to identify the victims involved but in reality, most people would rather not be named. That’s perfectly understandable and it won’t detract too much from the impact of their story if their identity is not revealed.

The personal touch will still come across to readers and make the message far more powerful.

Nick Kehoe is a former television and newspaper journalist. He is now managing director at law marketing firm Media Coverage