Good will hunting a key focus for newest regulatory body

One of the region’s leading dispute resolution lawyers has welcomed the first report by the legal profession’s newest regulatory arm, the Legal Ombudsman.

Gavin Faber, a partner at award-winning legal firm Higgs & Sons, says that people across the Midlands need to be aware of the importance of an accurate will, and that problems with wills drafted by unregulated will writing companies are leading to more and more disputes within families.

“The Legal Ombudsman service came into effect in October 2010 to deal with complaints against the legal profession. In its first official report, will writing is a key focus,” explains Gavin.

“As well as solicitors, there has been a huge increase in the number of firms of will writers over recent years, meaning that there is no shortage of people to speak to when contemplating one of life’s great inevitabilities – namely what will happen to your money when you are no longer here to look after it.

“The lack of regulation of will writing companies has been a concern to the legal profession and consumer groups for some time and we’re pleased these concerns have been taken on board by the legal profession’s newest regulatory arm.”

Disputes over wills are steadily increasing and while a properly drafted will cannot always prevent a challenge to it when somebody dies, it will certainly make a challenge less likely.

Gavin explains: “One of the great difficulties with wills prepared by a will writer is that should the worst happen, information can often be much more difficult to obtain, particularly if proper files have not been kept. Another consideration is that will writing companies can spring up almost overnight and disappear just as quickly. Getting to the bottom of any uncertainties regarding the preparation of a will may be very difficult if the will writer cannot be found.”

Challenges to the validity of a will can ultimately involve costly and protracted litigation and there is often a real risk that an estate can be consumed by legal costs. Ensuring that a properly drafted will is in place will help to reduce the risk of such challenges arising and ensure that family members are not left with a legacy of expensive and distressing litigation.

Gavin concludes: “Our advice is to seek proper legal counsel when drafting wills to ensure you make the right choice for both you and your family. If there is a dispute later, probate litigation is a very technical and complex area of law and it is vital to seek specialist litigation advice as soon as possible to greatly improve your chances of a positive and successful outcome.”

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