The Legal Services Board (LSB) has released proposals which it says will deliver greater protection to consumers that are writing wills by ensuring everyone providing services in this area is regulated.
The proposals follow an LSB investigation into the practice that found systemic problems including "consistent patterns of sloppiness, simple errors and poor communication often resulting in an unacceptable service," said the LSB.
The board, which oversees the industry in England and Wales, said 20% of wills contained mistakes.
It voiced concerns around the low quality of some consumers' wills; unethical sales practices and fraud, and a failure to deliver effective redress when things go wrong.
The board made two main proposals. The first recommends that will writing and estate administration be included in the legal list of ‘reserved activities'.
The law states that consumer protections, including access to redress, exist around all activities deemed 'reserved'.
The LSB said this would make it impossible for unscrupulous or poor quality providers to avoid regulation.
Because the board felt the problems were not restricted to the unregulated parts of the will writing industry, the second proposal aims to improve the effectiveness of existing regulation. This would see more emphasis on risk monitoring and supervision of regulated businesses.
Chairman of the legal services board, David Edmonds, said: "This is not about extending regulation for the sake of it; it is about maintaining public confidence in an important legal process; enhancing the environment for reputable providers; and protecting consumers at particularly vulnerable times in their lives."
The proposals have been released as a consultation document and distributed to relevant industry members.
The board has asked for responses by 16 July and plans to issue a second consultation document in September followed by a final report to the Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, in January 2013.
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