News release

SRA issues guidance on will writing

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued guidance for solicitors preparing wills. The guidance, published last week, has been drawn up to remind solicitors of their responsibilities and the Outcomes that should be achieved.

The SRA has produced the guidance in response to evidence that nearly 25 per cent of wills drafted by solicitors failed to achieve the desired quality. A "shadow shopper" exercise carried out in partnership with the Legal Services Board, Legal Services Consumer Panel and the Office of Fair Trading found that of the 41 wills drafted by solicitors during the survey, nine did not meet the needs and circumstances of the client.

The reasons for this failure included:

  • Inadequacy –the content of the will did not account for an estate fully, fails to make adequate provision or neglects to take certain outcomes in to consideration. It also includes wills which are legally invalid
  • Requirements – where the client's requests had not been met (as specified in the testator questionnaire) through omission or conflicting specification
  • Legality – where the actions specified in the will were potentially illegal
  • Inconsistency – where the language, logic and/or content of the will was contradictory
  • Detail – where items, people and requests were described in insufficient detail
  • Presentation – where the language and format of the document was lacking As well as dealing with eliminating the reasons for failure, the guidance talks about training, storage and gifts given by clients.

"Shadow Shopping" involved researchers shadowing genuine clients and their will writing requests, rather than using professional shoppers. The exercise was carried out in 2011, but the SRA delayed producing guidance as the Legal Services Board proposed making will writing a reserved legal activity, which could have led to alterations to the Handbook.

View the guidance.