Advisers have been urged to check will writers they recommend to clients are members of a recognised trade body, as a Panorama investigation uncovers malpractice in the unregulated sector.
Wills: The final rip off?, to be aired tonight on BBC1 at 8.30pm, highlights some of the dangers to consumers of using private will writing companies.
According to the programme, consumers were hit by hidden charges, and even had their inheritance stolen by firms.
However, some will writing companies claim the programme presents an unfairly biased view.
Craig Jones of the Legal Services Board issued a statement to the BBC today in response to the programme saying: "A solicitor is regulated when carrying out will-writing activity but other types of adviser may not be.
"The reason for this is that will-writing is not currently covered by the definition of a reserved legal activity.
"We will begin in the autumn to review the extent of reserved legal activities generally and our approach for deciding whether a legal activity should be reserved or regulated at all."
Tom Gormanly of The Will Writing Company is a founding member of the Institute of Professional Will Writers (IPW).
"There is no formal regulation of will writing but there are one of two trade bodies," he says.
"The IPW acts as a regulator even though it is not one. We advise IFAs to choose a will writer who is a member of a body with a strong constitution.
"The IPW has OFT consumer code status, and it is the one and only body with a consumer code.
"Being a member of the IPW means you have to pass external exams and provide CDP.
"The problem is that the whole sector is not regulated by legislation, so you could be expelled from the IPW but carry on trading. The IPW is campaigning for formal legislation."
Brian McMillan, managing director of the Society of Will Writers, is also pushing for legislation.
"The problems are relatively small," he says, "but if probate was taken out of the equation, most of these problems would not happen.
"We do not recommend that our members handle probate, and if they do, they must have separate professional indemnity insurance and should have the appropriate qualifications. Will writers should not handle money.
"Our members must take training courses, prove their experience, maintain their professional indemnity insurance, and adhere to our code of conduct.
"We supported Scotland with plans for legislation and recommend a similar scheme goes ahead in England and Wales; will writers should at least have a licensing system."
When sourcing a will writer, McMillan said IFAs should look for those with membership of a recognized trade body, and get references from others using that writer's services.
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