CompaniesOct 3 2012

Regulator could strip IFAs of power to write wills

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ByDonia O’Loughlin

New proposals from the Legal Services Board to restrict the range of people that are authorised to write wills could see financial advisers effectively stripped of this ability, according to IFAs that currently engage in the practice.

LSB, which provides regulatory oversight of the legal sector and monitors the works of regulators such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority, recently proposed in a final consultation paper to make will-writing reserved for legal activities.

It will ask the Lord Chancellor to agree to the plans, which it says will give greater protection to consumers, and an announcement is expected in the beginning of next year.

SRA found last year that one in four wills assessed failed because they were deemed to be of insufficient quality. Some failed to meet the needs and circumstances of the client, while other were deemed not to be legally valid.

Philip Milton, managing director of Philip J Milton & Company, told FTAdviser that while this will impact financial advisers who are will-writers if it becomes law, any effects in terms of increased costs will ultimately be met by clients.

He said: “In some sense regulating will writing is a good thing but some of the worst wills I have seen have been written by so-called regulated people. The primary thing with will-writing is it is not how much law you know but how good your English is as they will need to have a clear understanding of what the objectives are and how they will be executed.

“In some ways being a financial adviser is a preferable position than knowing the law as you will be used to carrying out financial work.”

Paul White, consultant at Belgravia Insurance Consultants, did not think it would have that much impact on financial advisers but did point out that if the recommendation does become law, essentially IFAs will want to perform extra due diligence to make sure it is a regulated person.

He said: “Presumably the costs will rise to will writing which will inevitably be passed onto clients. Lawyers are not interested in will-writing – they are more interested in the probate work that follows.”