The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued guidance for solicitors preparing wills, to remind solicitors of their responsibilities and the outcomes that should be achieved in chapter 1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
The SRA has produced the guidance in response to a survey involving researchers shadowing genuine clients and their will-writing requests, which found that of 41 wills drafted by solicitors, nine did not meet the needs of the clients in question.
In particular, the guidance states:
- a practitioner should not lead their client to believe that they must retain a solicitor to write their will, or that it is even the norm to do so;
- solicitors are “likely to be at risk” of breaking the rules if they drafted wills for clients who offered them gifts of “significant value”, which they then accepted;
- solicitors “will usually need to cease acting if the client will not agree to take independent advice”;
- a client should be invited to explain why they have excluded any relative who might have expected to benefit;
- if a firm does not supervise the execution of the will itself, it should check the will when returned to ensure that it has been properly executed;
- staff involved in drafting wills should be properly trained and supervised, and
- be expected to keep up to date with developments in the law; and
- processes and controls must be in place to ensure a client has testamentary capacity.