Not a cowboy? You can still get a cowboy will…
If you haven’t made a will, you probably should do so. Even if you are not loaded, if you don’t make a will before you die*, the identity of who gets your money is governed by the intestacy rules, and this will change depending on how much you leave and how many family members you have. The increasing number of second marriages and merged families makes drawing up a will even more important, as well as helping avoid any nasty inheritance tax consequences.
However, much like the term “accountant”, anybody can call themselves a will writer, and despite a case calling for tighter regulation of what, in many cases, are potentially vulnerable older people, the Government has decided not to interfere and has maintained the unregulated status quo for will preparation. According to the Law Society Chief Exec, this gives the green light for “unsuitable” wills written by the “incompetent, untrained and uninsured” to continue being offered to consumers.
The Legal Services Board collected two years’ worth of evidence showing dishonesty, incompetence and bad practice, and claimed that they had uncovered “comprehensive evidence” that the market for these sensitive and important products "working contrary to the interests of consumers." According to their figures as many as one in five wills (20%) contain at least one error.
The Law Society says the government’s decision not to regulate will be “deeply disappointing” to consumers, with chief executive Desmond Hudson saying: “Thanks to the government’s decision, unregulated providers can carry on writing wholly unsuitable wills, leaving consumers without any recourse when things go wrong as a result.”
Being a solicitor type, he recommends that individuals wanting to draw up a will should approach a "qualified" solicitor, as they offer “the comfort of an unrivalled regulatory and compensation system to put right any errors” but you can also look for members of the Society of Trust and Estate practitioners (STEP) who have also been examined on the correct preparation of wills. Beware of various other professional-sounding will writing bodies, however; many of these require only payment to join, giving you no assurance that the will preparer has any more clue what they are doing than you do. While using a properly qualified preparer does not guarantee there will be no problems, you will at least have some proper recourse should anything go wrong.
* and it's quite difficult to write one after you die