Institute of Professional Willwriters
Midland House - New Road - Halesowen - B63 3HY
Telephone: 08456 442042 Fax: 08456 442043 Email: email@example.com
October 28, 2006
THE IPW FORECASTS PERILS ONLINE AND MAKES
COMPELLING ‘DTI’ ARGUMENT AGAINST ONLINE WILLWRITING
If the online revolution really takes hold of willwriting, the results will be truly frightening. This is the
view of The Institute of Professional Willwriters (08456 442042) – the only organisation in the Willwriting sector to insist on members having professional qualifications and being subject to on-
going self- regulation.
The IPW believes too many commentators are excited about the delivery of legal services online and
failing to consider the serious consequences this could have on Wills. It has set out a three point
argument – it‟s DTI statement - to highlight why online willwriting services should be feared.
With the majority of online purchases, the consumer has the right to return a faulty or defective
purchase, obtaining a refund of monies spent. This is not the case with a Will, where an error or
omission is unlikely to be appreciated by the majority of consumers, who lack the technical knowledge
to spot problems. Such defects will not be noticed until after death, by which time it is too late to do
anything about it.
As Paul Sharpe, Chairman of the IPW says: “A Will is probably the only product we will buy
where it is essential to get it absolutely right first time, as typically there is no second
Areas unlikely to be picked up by the average consumer include:
? Issues relating to misinterpretation and vague phraseology and wording. ? Errors relating to the inclusion and exclusion of property and failure to fully appreciate
how assets are owned and, therefore, whether they can be disposed of by a Will. ? Failure to acknowledge the rights of certain family members to be included in a Will and
failure to take adequate measures to ensure that anyone excluded is excluded effectively. ? Procedural pitfalls that could invalidate a Will.
? A lack of individual advice relating to charitable gifts, tax, trusts and business assets that
would typically assist the client if they received professional, face to face advice. ? Lack of attention to detail e.g. inserting the wrong name of a charity could lead to that
charity missing out on bequests.
Any such defect could lead to a Will being contested, causing misery and heartache for the
family of the deceased, as well as potential costs running into thousands of pounds if legal
advice needs to be sought to fight the person contesting the Will.
Inevitably, an online Will needs to be posted to the client, for signature. The IPW believes
some will be put on one side by the client and forgotten. If they are never signed, they will
then be invalid, but equally, if they are signed incorrectly, they will also be rendered invalid.
Any person who draws up a Will needs to sign their Will in front of two witnesses. The Will
also needs to be dated. As Paul Sharpe says: “ Even without the introduction of online
services, these areas have caused huge problems when overseen by unqualified Willwriters.
The online scenario is likely to turn this grey area to a frightening shade of black.
“An important part of a professional Willwriting service, as delivered by IPW members, is the supervision of the signing process, to ensure it is actually completed and correctly completed.
It is hard to believe an online service can deliver this fundamental obligation of a
Buying insurance online is an easy purchase, with pre-set quote screens enabling consumers to purchase a policy suiting their needs. This is NOT the case with Wills. Buying a Will requires a degree of technical expertise the majority of purchasers do not possess, but perhaps even more importantly, few of those buying Wills know what is the best Will to suit their own circumstances.
In Willwriting, buying the cheapest service should not be the priority. With a myriad of different circumstances to consider when drawing up a Will, no two Wills are identical. A „set fee‟ approach should be accompanied by the ringing of alarm bells, because in packaging Willwriting, the ability to personalise and tailor a Will is extremely restricted.
Paul Sharpe comments: “Our IPW members have to undergo extensive training before they
can claim to be a professional Willwriter and once accredited typically spend an hour or more with each client, to find out about their circumstances, hopes, fears and concerns. This attention to detail is what enables a client to receive a Will that meetstheir needs. Very often, that Will is very different to the one the client initially thought they needed. In my view, it is impossible to replicate such a service online, particularly when so many family
relationships are of a complex nature in this day and age.”
Having indemnity insurance in place is a crucial part of being a professional Willwriter, which is why the IPW insists its members purchase at least ?2 million of indemnity protection per year. An online provider‟s stance on this issue is likely to remain unknown, meaning that mistakes may lead to losses that cannot be reimbursed through a PI insurance policy.
Many insurance providers refuse to provide cover for Willwriting services, or make the cover available at a very high cost, because they recognise it is „risky business‟. It remains to be seen whether online Willwriters will pass the cost of high premiums on to their clients, or go without such cover. The latter would possibly leave clients, or the families of clients, with the prospect of little redress if something goes wrong.
Whilst these three important areas constitute the crux of the IPW‟s argument against online
Wills, Paul Sharpe believes an online service could also have a more sinister side. Online
delivery of this service would open up the possibility of Wills being drafted by someone other
than the person whose name is on the Will, with the intention of defrauding genuine
beneficiaries, or laundering money. How online providers deal with this situation will be
interesting to see, but in The IPW‟s view, it is extremely problematic and another excellent
reason why online Wills should not be encouraged.
Paul Sharpe concludes: “Our DTI argument against online Wills is a compelling one and needs to be taken seriously. A Will is not a simplistic purchase to be dropped into a
shopping cart with a direct route to checkout.
“If the Government allows Willwriting to proceed down this route, they will once again be selling the consumer short. They have already ducked the issue relating to regulation of the
Willwriting sector and, if they fail to act, could be endangering even more consumers who
unwittingly head down the online Will purchase route. The writing is on the wall, even if
bureaucratic policy relating to Willwriting has been decidedly off the wall.”
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Press calls: Jane Hunt, Catapult PR, 01253 595558 –
Note to Editors
More information about the Institute of Professional Willwriters can be found at
The Institute of Professional Willwriters was founded in 1991 as a self-regulatory body to
safeguard the public interest. It now has members across England and Wales and is still the
only body for the sector to operate a strict policy of self-regulation that is worth the paper it is
written on. Unlike many bodies, it does not regard the payment of an annual membership
fee as sufficient „regulation‟ of its members. IPW members must not only pass a strict IPW
entrance exam, or an equivalent, but also have ?2 million of professional indemnity
insurance in place and agree to a strict programme of on-going training and self-
development, as well as a rigorous Code of Conduct backed by a disciplinary regime. IPW
members offer a professional, ethical and competent service.