Interest in Probate – Why charities need more of us to write wills

Ten per cent of wills notified for probate include a legacy for charities, which are estimated to receive nearly £2bn a year in this way. Legacies represent 12% of the income of the largest charities, and up to 50% of some others. Thankfully 74% of the UK population support charities and when asked, 35% of people say they'd happily leave a gift in their will once family and friends had been provided for.

Yet the vast majority of people do not make a will.   What can be done to encourage more people to make wills ?

Arguably, the biggest issue here, the current focus is on whether all of those who write wills for us should be regulated to ensure consumers are properly protected. Recent programmes such as Panorama haver highlighted the dangers of  will-writing and probate being a so-called unreserved activities, meaning that anyone can do it whether or not they have a legal qualification, professional indemnity insurance. Fridaysmove is of course a regulated law firm with insurance.

In the last few months Law Society research found that badly drafted wills can render the deceased's estate wholly or partially intestate with poor tax planning, 'vanishing wills' and hidden charges, which can run to much higher costs than the initial advertised price.

Even though it is in it’s embryonic stages, the legal world's super-regulator, the Legal Services Board ( LSB ), is under public pressure to look into wills and probate activity. The LSB has the mandate to recommend whether an activity should be reserved or not, and at first it did not recognise the importance of this issue. But it has recently begun work to investigate the history of reserved activities and what its approach should be to them. This is still in its relatively early stages but it emerged last in July 2010 (just in time for Panorama, in fact) that the pressure exerted by the growing furore over will-writers has led the board to fast-track a decision on them. The LSB has now commissioned a formal investigation.

In a recent press release the LSB advised “Because of concerns expressed about will-writing, we have asked the Consumer Panel to carry out an investigation into the issue of whether a different regulatory approach to will writing is needed. We recently brought together the full range of stakeholders on this issue for a workshop designed to pool knowledge and identify the parameters of what the investigation should cover – shaping the formal commissioning for the Consumer Panel. This event began the process of collecting evidence and identifying sources. ”

In fact doing it yourself is a popular option too, with Lawpack, the leading provider of DIY wills via WH Smith, Tesco and the like, selling around 200, 000 packs each year.