Regulated or Unregulated?
Research by the Legal Services Board (LSB) has found that more consumers are turning to unregulated Will writers because they offer cheaper services with more transparent pricing and higher levels of innovation and service differentiation.
The LSB’s report exposes a number of misconceptions. Contrary to some anecdotal evidence, using an unregulated provider is not as problematic as once thought.
Legal Services Board’s Chairman Sir Michael Pitt said: “This is an important piece of work. We hear too much anecdote about the unregulated parts of the legal sector and alleged problems associated with such providers.
“This new research suggests that the unregulated sector is neither as big nor as problematic as some have suggested. The research provides a balanced view of this part of the legal services market and allows us a better understanding as to why consumers might use it. It is however, very important that consumers make informed decisions to use unregulated providers. They will receive less protection than if using a regulated provider and it is of concern if they are accepting this without realising the lack of consumer protection.”
One of the most illuminating facts is the growing level of customer satisfaction with professionals outside the usual legal framework. Reasons given for this trend include transparent pricing, convenience, and innovation. The average regulated single Will is £40 more expensive compared to an unregulated. Price was an important factor in deciding which channel not to use: 61% decided against using a firm of solicitors stating that solicitors were too expensive.
This should come as no surprise as given a choice between two seemingly identical products, most of us will invariably choose the cheaper or fixed fee option because we prefer the known to the dubious unknowns. Add to that the fact that approximately 75% of unregulated professionals happily visit clients at home and you have a done deal.
While satisfaction with unregulated firms is high, solicitors needn’t panic just yet as they still provide the lion’s share of the Will writing business.
The market place includes Will writers with little or no training, qualified solicitors who may only have spent a day or two as part of their overall training on Wills and experienced qualified and knowledgeable professionals. Is using a sole-practitioner solicitor with little or no specialist knowledge in Wills a better option just because they are regulated or would you rather use a qualified, experienced non-regulated Will writer?
A little over half of Will writers are members of either The Society of Will Writers or the Institute of Professional Will Writers. Membership is voluntary and does not guarantee you will receive the best advice.
Choosing the right professional is not simply a matter of regulation. It’s about transparency concerning the knowledge, experience and expertise of the person you’re instructing.
If more future clients turn to unregulated providers, then the regulated firms will need to make cost effective improvements to remain competitive.
Solicitors will often argue constraints and demands to adhere to standards result in higher prices but Will and probate fees are not always that transparent.
However, the LSB reports that more than 90% of customers were satisfied with both their regulated and unregulated Will writer. A reassuring statistic for both sides.
*Full report available on request