If you are thinking about writing your will, you will find that you are faced with an increasing number of options. Although, traditionally, will-drafting has been the role of solicitors, now there are many other will-writing companies being established that offer the same service. But what is the difference and how should you choose between these competing options?
The Law Society - the governing body that represents solicitors’ firms - is soon to introduce the Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (“the WIQS”). This scheme is, in the words of the Law Society, “a new quality standard to enable SRA regulated practices undertaking wills and estate administration to demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards of competence and client service.”
This means that any firm that is regulated by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (“the SRA”) - the regulative body of solicitors’ firms - can apply to be part of the scheme. The scheme is optional, and non-membership does not necessarily detract from the quality of service a firm has been providing up until now. However, the new scheme aims to provide something extra for those firms that do apply.
Aims of the scheme
The aims of the scheme are two-fold: to raise the quality of service, and to reassure clients of that quality. Although there are many new initiatives under the WIQS that will help firms to deliver the highest quality will-writing and probate services, the main driver is the reassurance of the public.
With the rise of other will-writing organisations, not only have solicitors’ firms seen their own client numbers fall, but the Law Society has become concerned that the general public are being exposed to unnecessary risks.
Currently, anyone can set themselves up as a will-writer: there is no over-arching regulation. This means that there is no requirement that such will-writers be insured, or even trained. The WIQS is being established in an effort to set solicitors’ firms apart from other will-writing companies.
It is already the case that solicitors receive training on how to write a will as part of their legal qualifications. Moreover, all solicitors firms must be regulated by the SRA in order to practice, and the SRA demands that each firm is suitably insured. This means that, should a solicitor be negligent in the writing of your will, you will be able to claim compensation on the firm’s insurance policy.
In addition, members of the WIQS will commit to mandatory training for relevant staff members, sharing best practice, as well as subjecting themselves to self-reporting, random audits, and annual reviews. The Law Society hopes that these additional requirements will help provide the assurance that clients desire when choosing their will-writer.
The WIQS application process is due to begin on 30 September 2013, and submissions can be made from 21 October 2013. The scheme itself will then commence in January 2014.