Law Soc hits back at Which? wills report

THE LAW Society and the Consumers' Association have renewed hostilities – this time over the drafting of wills – following a long-running battle over the accuracy of Which? magazine surveys.

The latest Which? report covering the legal profession claims solicitors' will drafting skills are no better than those of banks, life insurers and specialist will writers.

A survey carried out at about the same time last year on the quality and cost of legal advice sparked off a long-running dispute between the two groups which saw the Consumers' Association threaten the Law Society with legal action.

The latest report, published two weeks before National Will Week, which runs from 14 to 20 October, was based on 52 draft wills produced for researchers posing as clients.

Of the 52 only 12 were judged as “good” by a panel of legal experts.

And although solicitors produced most of the “good” wills, more than half were only “average” or “poor”.

The Which? report names two law firms as having provided a particularly bad service. Leicester firm Billson and Sharp is condemned for preparing a will based on a 10-minute interview. The resultant will, claims Which?, failed to address the setting up of a trust for two young children and the appointment of guardians.

Aylesbury firm Archdeacon & Brocklebank is criticised for taking weeks to produce a confusing draft will which failed to ensure that the researcher's daughter and husband would inherit as expected.

Which? managing editor Charlotte Gann said: “Our findings were worrying. No one type of will writing professional gave a consistently good service or was significantly better than other types.”

But Tony Girling, Law Society president, said he disagreed with the conclusions Which? had drawn from the survey.

He said: “Nine out of the 19 wills written by solicitors were rated as good. None of the wills written by banks and insurance companies were judged by Which? to be good and only three wills written by will writing companies were rated as good. The vast majority – 22 out of 25 of wills produced by will writing companies – were rated by Which? as average or poor.”

Billson and Sharp partner Patrick Cleaver said the firm was investigating the Which? claims and was unable to comment until this was completed.

Archdeacon & Brocklebank practice manager John Davies admitted his firm had made a mistake.

He said: “Our notes got lost in the office and normally, all mistakes are corrected after clients see the draft.”