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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 February 2008, 16:56 GMT
'Dishonesty' warning over wills
Lorely Burt
Lorely Burt says the industry should be regulated
The government should consider regulating the will-writing industry which is a "hunting ground for the incompetent", says an MP.

Lorely Burt, Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, said fraudsters had been able to rip off customers.

She called for stricter rules in the industry and possible regulation.

No qualification is needed to write up the document, prompting warnings from charities about bogus will-writers.

Ms Burt, MP for Solihull, told a debate at Westminster Hall that there were a number of ethical businesses in the industry, but fraudsters had taken advantage of a lack of statutory regulation.

"It is no exaggeration to say that will-writing has become a happy hunting-ground for the incompetent, dishonest and the fly-by-night operator," she said.

The rules were different for financial advisers and solicitors, leading to widely varying standards in the industry, she claimed.

Overcharged

Earlier in the week, charity Citizens Advice warned people to be wary of adverts and cold-calls promising cut-price wills.

Citizens' Advice Bureaux around the country are seeing people who have been conned into parting with their cash by people advertising will writing on the cheap
Susan Marks, Citizens Advice

The charity said increasing numbers of people were being attracted to will-writing deals for about 24 advertised in local newspapers or at the door, but which later escalated to much higher costs.

An elderly couple from Nottinghamshire responded to an offer of will-writing for 20 plus VAT, Citizens Advice said. The salesman visited them at home, stayed for a long time and the bill for the range of services they were sold finally came to 1,052.

He left no documents and the couple only discovered what they had bought when the paperwork came in the post.

The couple already had wills which could have been amended very cheaply.

The charity's consumer affairs policy officer Susan Marks said: "Will-writing services can be a useful alternative to solicitors, but will-writing firms are not regulated by the Law Society, so there are few safeguards if things go wrong."

No compelling case

The government says there is still no compelling case for regulation, but more needs to be done to ensure more people draw up wills.

Junior justice minister Bridget Prentice said: "We have got a real job to do in educating the public at large about the importance of making a will."

She added that a Legal Services Board could take swift action if there was evidence of consumer detriment.

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