New rules tabled for will writing

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Will writers who are not lawyers face new rules to protect consumers

New regulations to protect consumers in the drawing up of wills have been tabled by the Scottish government.

The move, which will form part of the Legal Service Bill, follows concerns that some non-lawyer will-writers may be exploiting a lack of regulation.

The government said it wanted to ensure all will-writers conformed to acceptable industry practice.

It is estimated that about 100 non-lawyer will-writers are operating as businesses in Scotland.

The government said its proposed amendments to the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill would "bring to an end an era where consumers have been vulnerable to non-regulated practices which are often unnecessarily expensive'.

According to the government, some consumers are being persuaded to pay up to £2,400 when a simple will costing £150 would suffice.

'Robust' rules

Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said examples of poor practice included lack of skill and competence, cold-calling and advice based on English law.

"We are very concerned that some non-lawyer will-writers may be exploiting the lack of regulation to the detriment of the consumer in Scotland," said Mr Ewing.

"The regulation will continue to allow non-lawyers to provide a will-writing service but will protect consumers by ensuring that such will-writers are subject to robust regulatory rules, enforcement measures and sanctions.

"However, we will not regulate individuals preparing their own will, with or without a DIY pack, including 'deathbed' wills, or other persons providing a free advice service."

Under current legislation, non-lawyer will-writers are not required to have professional indemnity insurance or be associated with a professional body that would exercise disciplinary powers.

Solicitors who write wills are already regulated by the Law Society of Scotland.

The amendments will be considered by the Justice Committee at Stage 2 in June, and then the Scottish Parliament at Stage 3, which is likely to be in September.

If supported by parliament it could begin as soon as 2011.

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