Want to know if the person writing your Will is qualified to do it? The legal market is baffling to the lay person. Do you know how to differentiate between someone who claims to be a ‘professional’ Will writer and what this actually means?
There are tiers of service available:
– Will kit from stationers – not recommended for anyone really (very easy to make fatal mistakes).
– Online service – proceed with extreme caution, as it’s very difficult to understand a persons requirements without meeting them face to face and going through the processes.
– A ‘Will writer’ – often someone with no legal training or background who has enrolled with ‘the Society of Will writers’ and the ‘Institute of Professional Will writers’. These groups are self-regulatory which means membership is easy to obtain and means very little to the customer. Terrifyingly, someone can call themselves a Will writer with no training whatsoever. Most members have completed (at best) a three day course followed by an open book exam which tests them on the most basic of knowledge.
– STEP member – a society set up by actual professionals (accountants and lawyers) to share knowledge about all things Wills and Trusts. Now the leading provider of education in this area. All Diplomas comprise of four Certificates and are set at degree level, each Advanced Certificate takes approx. 6 months to complete. If someone is a full ‘TEP’ then they have high level, specific training in this area of law and taxation. Lawyers who hold this qualification as well really are the gold standard.
– Chartered Legal Executives – the lesser known of (by title) third branch of Qualified, practising Lawyers who may practice in this area. Completion of Level 3 (A level) and Level 6 (honours degree level) Diploma in Law. Legal training of a minimum of 5 years, 2 years post qualification. Specialise from the outset and training is specific to their area of law.
Solicitors – the general practitioner of law who may practice in any area they consider themselves competent. Increasingly, Solicitors also tend to specialise in one area and can therefore offer a great deal of expertise (similar to CILEx and STEP).
The ideal scenario – a qualified practising lawyer who is also a full member of STEP.
If your advisor is giving you the runaround as to being ‘qualified’ (I’ve seen some one ridiculous claims!) then do the following:
Ask them about regulation.
- Do they have a regulatory body? The two will writing groups mentioned above are NOT regulatory bodies. Members can simply close their doors and will have no one to answer to. Insurance is no good if the policy ceased 10 years before you need to claim!
- Ask whether you could complain to the legal ombudsman if you were dissatisfied?
- Ask them if they are Commissioners of Oaths. Authorised, qualified lawyers always are!
This is arguably the most important document you will ever sign, please don’t trust someone that isn’t properly qualified. Remember someone may be very personable and have amazing reviews – but its 20/30/40 years from now that any issues will rear their ugly heads, and in all honesty the issue with lack of training is you have no idea what you do not know. Working in firms and encountering all the issues second hand is what gives someone like me the desire to know all that my clients should expect me to know! The idea of someone who has never administered estates writing Wills absolutely terrifies me. The implications of incorrect wording can be far reaching and devastating.
Would you have your house re-wired by someone who’d done a three day course? Would you let someone with three days training do your conveyancing because they were cheaper?