It surprised me how many people over the last week have asked me if I watched the BBC’s Panorama programme Wills- the final RIP off. Yes, I watched it and throughout the whole 30 minutes it caused a knot in my stomach and anger to rise up from within.
Not anger at the programme makers – I thought the journalism was put together well. But anger in three other directions – at the unregulated Will writers who act quite literally in a criminal manner, at the government for failing to regulate this area of law and at the public for still being duped despite all the consumer rights programmes warning against cowboys of all shapes and sizes.
The programme presented itself as a warning against letting someone who is not legally qualified draw up your Will. It did not go into many details as to why this is a bad thing and I guess that the technical mistakes that occur in poorly drafted Wills would not have made such good viewing.
Instead the cautionary tale focused not on Will Writing but on Probate and poor administration of estates. This occurs particularly when the Will writer persuades their client to appoint them as an Executor.
When it comes to writing Wills and dealing with Probate here’s my opinion of how Solicitors measure up to Will Writers:
|Legal knowledge||Excellent – we have Law degrees and years of training. Good probate solicitors are also accredited with STEP||Poor, may have been on a “will writing course” but that doesn’t provide a good legal grounding|
|Speed||Traditionally a bit on the slow side, could be more aware of providing good customer service||Not much better|
|Price||Surprisingly good value and not as costly as the public thinks||Hidden charges and sales techniques can make the price extortionate|
|Sales pitch||We’re not so good at selling ourselves or our legal services||Often with sales backgrounds these guys know how to make a pitch|
|Customer service||A bit hit and miss at times. However there are many many lawyers out there who genuinely care about providing a good service.
||If Panorama’s anything to go by then there’s a high chance of poor service.|
|Regulated||To the eye balls||Not at all|
There will always be unscrupulous individuals trying to take advantage and in fairness to the Legal Services Board they have said they will fast track regulation in order to put a stop to this. In addition I think that solicitors need to work really hard to change public perception to show that we can be good value for money, approachable and that we generally provide an excellent service.