The Law Society has launched its first recognised quality standard for wills and estate administration.
The Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS), which will open for applications on 31 October, is aimed at SRA-regulated practices that offer will drafting, probate, and estate administration services. Accreditation will provide these firms with the opportunity to demonstrate to consumers and key stakeholders their commitment to the highest standards of client service.
Applicants will undergo a rigorous assessment, and will be required to undertake compulsory training, self-reporting, random audits, and annual reviews in order to maintain the new status.
At the heart of the scheme will be the first Law Society Protocol for wills and estate administration. This provides practical guidelines and recommended best practice at all key stages of the wills and probate process.
Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said:
‘The aim of the scheme is to reinforce set standards of practice and client care when providing will drafting, probate and estate administration services. At the heart of this and other Law Society accreditations is consumer reassurance, demonstrating a commitment to putting their needs first and delivering the highest levels of service.
‘It is a common consumer misconception that only solicitors prepare wills, but there are many other service providers in today’s market. As the law currently stands anyone can set themselves up as a ‘will writer’. For consumers to make informed choices, it is important that they are able to distinguish between those that are unregulated, uninsured and untrained, and our members’ practices that specialise in this area and offer a quality service.’
Lucy Scott-Moncrieff added:
‘This exacting scheme assures consumers who wish to prepare a will or to manage the administration of their estate, two of the biggest decisions of most people’s lives, that not only are they using a regulated solicitor’s firm but one specifically endorsed for high standards in this area.’
She explained that the Law Society had campaigned to change the law so that only properly trained, regulated and insured persons would be authorised to write wills.
‘We argued that all those providing wills services should be trained to the same level and subject to uniform regulatory requirements. The Legal Services Board’s Consumer Panel threw its weight behind the Society’s campaign, however the Lord Chancellor announced earlier in the spring that the government would not change the law. For consumer protection this means that the only prudent choice is to instruct a solicitor to prepare your will.
‘All solicitors receive training in will drafting and the overwhelming majority of solicitors who undertake this work are highly experienced lawyers who can provide a comprehensive service to suit the individual needs of their clients. Moreover, the breadth of their training enables solicitors to consider the full range of issues that may affect consumers and advise on all options, including tax and family law matters. The needs of consumers will vary according to their individual circumstances and solicitors are well placed to advise them.’
The scheme will be promoted to consumers from January 2014.