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THE SOCIETY OF WILL WRITERS AND ESTATE PLANNING
PRACTITIONERS
CODE OF PRACTICE
1. Definitions
In this Code of Practice the following words shall have the following meanings:
“the Society” shall mean The Society of Will Writers and Estate Planning
Practitioners
“a Member” shall mean a companion, fellow, member, honorary member,
associate or affiliate of the Society
“a Consultant” shall mean any person who is involved in any aspect of the
provision of Will Writing Services either directly or indirectly
“Will Writing Services” shall mean the provision of Wills, Lasting Powers of
Attorney, Living Wills, notices of severance, probate advice and other services
(subject to Clause 5.7 below) of a legal nature provided by a Member to his
clients. It shall also mean inheritance tax advice and other tax planning
advice in connection with the preparation of Wills
Any reference to “the Code” will mean this Code of Practice
In this Code the singular shall include the plural and the masculine shall
include the feminine and vice versa
Reference to a “Clause” shall mean a Clause of this Code
2. General conduct of business
2.1 A Member will observe the law of the jurisdiction in which the Member practices
and shall not knowingly assist his clients to breach the law or leave any breach
unreported to the relevant authority
2.2 A Member shall comply at all times with regulations and guidance issued by the
Society from time to time
2.3 A Member shall only offer and carry out Will Writing Services which the Member
has competence to carry out and for which the Member carries professional
indemnity insurance in accordance with paragraph 2.11 below
2.4 A Member shall ensure that at all times he has the required general and
technical competence to advise on the provision of the Will Writing Services
which the Member offers and has full and proper knowledge of developments in
his areas of professional expertise. To this end the Member shall comply strictly
with the rules of the Society’s Continuing Professional Development Scheme
2.5 Where a matter is beyond a Member’s competence the Member must advise the
client to seek alternative legal or other advice
2.6 In the conduct of the Member’s business the Member shall act with integrity,
objectivity and courtesy and shall do nothing to bring the name of the Society
into disrepute
2.7 All Members shall display a certificate of compliance with this Code of Practice at
their business premises and shall promptly supply a copy of the Code of Practice
to their clients on request free of charge
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2.8 A Member shall not disclose information relating to the Member’s client’s affairs
to any third party without the consent of that client unless legally required to do
so and shall comply with all legislation from time to time in force relating to data
protection and money laundering
2.9 A Member must display on his letterhead a statement that the Member is a
Member of the Society and supply a copy of such letterhead to the Society and
any changes made to it upon request
2.10 A Member must comply with the Society’s annual compliance procedure and
make periodic returns as required by the Society. In particular the Member must
annually upon request:
(a) supply the Society with details of his professional indemnity insurance
(b) supply the Society with details of continuing professional development
undertaken by the Member
(c) pay such sum as the Society shall reasonably require towards its Public
Indemnity Fund
(d) supply the Society with a copy of the Member’s procedure for dealing with
complaints
Upon receipt of a satisfactory return the Society will issue the Member with an
annual certificate of membership
2.11 A Member shall not practice unless the Member maintains in force a
professional indemnity policy with an approved insurer to a limit of at least £2
million and produces to the Society evidence that such policy is in force
2.12 A Member shall have satisfactory arrangements in place for the conduct of
the Member’s practice in the event of his death or prolonged incapacity and shall
provide details of such arrangements to the Society upon request
2.13 A Member must ensure that the work of all those employed by the Member is
satisfactorily supervised and that all such employees and any agents or
consultants of a Member are aware of this Code of Practice, comply with it and
are adequately and properly trained for the tasks that they perform. The
Member will be responsible for a breach of the Code by any of the above who is
not a registered Member in his own right
2.14 If a Member shall become bankrupt or enter into an arrangement with
creditors or being a director of a company that is wound up or enters into
administration or liquidation (except for the purposes of reconstruction or
amalgamation) he shall cease to practise and advise the Society
2.15 A Member offering to store Wills or other documents for a client shall ensure
that they are stored in fire-resistant and flood-resistant secure premises and
that they are adequately insured. A Member offering to store Wills and other
documents for the lifetime of a client shall for the protection of the client offer
alternative storage arrangements (at no further cost to the client) in the event
of him ceasing to practise for whatever reason
2.16 Each Member shall ensure that he provides a free or reasonably priced aftersales
service for clients that is simple to use and easily accessible. This shall
include advice and information regarding the products and services purchased or
available for purchase. Where an after sales service is offered details and
limitations must be clearly stated in writing. The service should be offered for a
reasonable period or for the period advised to the client. Phone calls to any
after-sales service should not be charged at a premium rate
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3. Conflict of Interests
3.1 Members shall take reasonable precautions to ensure that no conflict of interests
arises between their clients and themselves. A Member must not act where a
conflict of interests arises
3.2 There is a conflict of interests if:
a) A Member or his company owes separate duties to act in the best interests of
two or more clients in relation to the same or related matters and those
duties conflict
b) A Member’s duty to act in the best interests of any client in relation to a
matter conflicts with his own interests in relation to that or a related matter
3.3 Where a client proposes to make a lifetime gift or a gift on death to, or for the
benefit of a Member, or the Member’s company the Member must advise his
client to seek independent advice unless the client is a member of his family.
4. Pre-contractual Information
4.1 Before accepting instructions from a client the Member will supply to his client
pre-contractual information which is clear and accessible and available in writing
4.2 This pre-contractual information must be provided to every client and in a
special format if necessary such as in Braille, large print or in a different
language.
4.3 As a minimum this information should include the following:
a) The Members name and address and the name of the attending
consultant
b) Information on the main characteristics of the products and services
to be provided including definitions of any technical terms used
c) Information on key contract terms including delivery, payment,
withdrawal and cancellation rights.
d) Pricing information containing a total price and full breakdown for
each product or service including any delivery charges, VAT charges,
credit charges by compliance with the Consumer Credit Act and any
other items incurring a fee
e) Information about complaints and after sales procedures
f) Where the instructions cannot be legally or practically followed;
explanations as to any differences between the client’s instructions or
expectations and the documents to be provided
g) Information on the availability of linked goods and services such as
lifetime updates and storage
h) A statement that the Member adheres to this Code of Practice and
that a copy of it is available upon request
4.4 A Member shall submit his terms of business (in a form approved of or
recommended by the Society) to the Member’s client before entering into a
contract for the supply of Will Writing Services. Members must ensure that
their terms of business comply with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts
Regulations 1999, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations
2008 and any other relevant legislative provision. In particular the terms of
business shall provide Members’ clients with:
a) a date by which the Will Writing Services are to be completed in the
normal course of events
b) advance notice of any delays that may be likely and in the event of
delay for any reason a revised completion date
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c) details of cancellation rights as described at Clause 6.2
d) a statement that the Member complies with this Code of Practice
e) details of full complaint procedures
5. Instructions
5.1 A Member that takes deposits or advance payments for the provision of Will
Writing Services shall have in place an appropriate system to ensure the prompt
return of any such deposit or advance payment in the event that the Member is
unable to comply with his obligations under his terms of business and/or this
Code of Practice
5.2 A Member that provides services not intended to be provided within a 30 day
period or a Member that holds money on behalf of a client shall have a Business
Client Account separate to that of the Member’s business and with no right for
the Member’s bankers to offset any liabilities accrued on the Member’s business
account against such separate account. Such account shall be described as a
client account and a Member shall not be permitted to deposit their own funds in
such client account. The account will be used to hold the following:
(a) No less than 50 % of all money received by a Member for or directly from a
client for services not intended to be provided within a 30 day period
(b) All money received by a Member to be held on behalf of a client as part of
the administration process or in any circumstances where a Member is holding
money on behalf of a client
5.3 A Member must not refuse to accept instructions from any person solely on the
grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion or belief, age, disability,
sexual orientation or transgender status
5.4 In this Clause and in Clause 5.5 a “vulnerable client” is someone who is elderly,
infirm, with a disability or learning difficulty or someone purchasing Will Writing
Services at a time of illness or distress or with insufficient knowledge to
understand a document that may be produced or advice that may be given to
him or her, but who is nonetheless adjudged by the Member, with or without
supporting medical opinion, to be of sufficient capacity to act on the advice
given by the Member
5.5 While it is accepted that Wills and other documents prepared by the Member
may be complex in nature and couched in legal language, a Member must be
prepared to explain to the vulnerable client terminology used in any such
documents and in language that such client is likely to understand at no
additional cost and in writing if requested. Failing which the Member shall
rescind the contract for the provision of Will Writing Services and refund any
fees paid if the vulnerable client so requests
5.6 In cases where instructions are received by a Member to carry out Will Writing
Services in circumstances where a Member does not meet his client the Member
shall take all reasonable and proper precautions to verify the identity of the
client and that such instructions emanate from the client. Where instructions are
taken by an employee, consultant or agent of the Member that person will take
all reasonable and proper precautions to verify the identity of the client and that
such instructions emanate from the client although it will ultimately be the
Member’s responsibility to ensure that this is carried out where any of the above
is not a Member in his own right. Without prejudice to the foregoing a Member,
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when engaged in a regulated activity as defined by the Money Laundering
Regulations 2007, shall comply with such Regulations
5.7 A Member shall not undertake probate services or the administration of the
estate of a deceased person for gain without the prior consent of the Society.
Such consent shall not be unreasonably withheld from a Member who provides
evidence of valid Professional Indemnity Insurance cover for probate activities
and competence established by the attainment of one of the following:
(a) Certificate of Probate Practice (Licensed Conveyancers)
(b) Completion of the Legal Practice Course including Private Client Unit
(c) ILEX Level 6 Probate Practice
(d) STEP Diploma for England & Wales (Trusts and Estates)
(e) STEP Diploma for Scotland
(f) Approval by the Society based on experience
6. Carrying out Will Writing Services
6.1 A member must comply with the client`s instructions using all due skill, care
and expedition appropriate to the need of the client and having regard to the
requirements of clause 2.5 above. Regarding the dispatch of documents
members must adhere to the following timescales unless otherwise agreed in
writing with the client at the time that the client’s instructions are received. The
following timescales take effect immediately upon the client providing all the
information required to complete the agreed instructions.
Dispatch of Draft documents – 7 working days
Dispatch of executable documents AFTER drafts are approved – 7 working days
Dispatch of executable documents if drafts are NOT supplied – 14 working days
However where circumstances occur, including those which are beyond the
Member`s control, which result in the documents being delivered outside the
above stated timescales, the client must be informed and upon their request
must be provided with a full written explanation for the cause of the delays AND
the opportunity to renegotiate or cancel the contract, with a full refund being
provided should it be requested by the client.
6.2 A Member must refund any money paid in respect of the preparation of a client’s
documents should they change their mind within 7 days from the date of taking
instructions unless the clients have signed a waiver of their rights under The
Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc.
Regulations 2008. If a Member provides further cancellation rights the Member
may reserve the right to charge for the advice given and for any work already
carried out in accordance with signed instructions, after the expiration of this
period but must provide a full breakdown of charges incurred
6.3 In taking instructions it is the Member’s duty to establish that the client is acting
freely, without coercion with a full understanding of the transaction and is of
testamentary or other appropriate capacity with reference to the principles of
the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the common law test in Banks v Goodfellow
6.4 Clients must be provided with the opportunity for the attestation of all
documents produced by a Member to be supervised by a Member or his
representative and it shall be made clear in the Member’s terms of business
whether or not this is chargeable. Where a client does not opt for such an
attestation service then the Member shall offer free of charge a service to check,
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as far as is practical, that such documents appear to have been attested
correctly
6.5 Where a Member produces a Will or other document that contains a clause
which limits the liability of an executor or trustee for breach of trust then the
Member shall draw this clause to the client’s attention and confirm to the client
in writing the consequences of the clause
6.6 In order that a Member may comply fully with the requirements of any future
investigation of whatsoever nature initiated by the Society or a client or his
personal representatives or any other third party, the Member agrees to make
available without time limit and upon demand a copy of the client file(s) to the
Society or other party entitled under law
6.7 Upon conclusion of business a Member shall ensure each client is aware of the
location of the customer satisfaction form for completion on The Society’s
website or provide a hard copy where requested
7. Business promotion
7.1 A Member may advertise the Member’s practice and seek to obtain directly or
indirectly clients in any manner and through any medium provided that the good
reputation of the Society is not damaged
7.2 In particular any advertising or promotional material shall be truthful, in good
taste such as will be unlikely to cause offence to any other person and shall
contain no disparaging statements, express or implied, about any other Member.
A Member shall not use misleading, unfair or deceptive sales practices to
advertise or promote Will Writing Services
7.3 Promotional material produced by a Member which carries the Society’s logo
must also state the Member’s adherence to the Code of Practice. A copy must be
supplied to the Society upon request.
7.4 A Member shall not seek to harass or exert pressure upon clients or potential clients
7.5 Members shall not make unsolicited telephone calls to those registered with the
Telephone Preference Service, make unsolicited faxes to those registered with
the Fax Preference Service or make unsolicited mailings to those registered with
the Mailing Preference Service
7.6 Any prices quoted in any advertising material (or in any literature produced by a
Member) shall indicate whether they include or exclude Value Added Tax
8. Complaints
8.1 A Member must have in place a written complaints procedure which should be
provided to clients upon request. It should be reviewed annually and issued to
staff as appropriate
8.2 The complaints procedure will contain details of how to make a complaint, the
information that must be provided, who to address it to, the timescales involved
and that a client has the option to refer the complaint to the Society should the
Member not provide a satisfactory resolution
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8.3 All written complaints should be acknowledged as soon as received and no later
than 7 days after. A formal response should be provided to a complaint within
14 days or, where this is not possible, the client advised of the reasons for this
and then provided with a formal response as soon as possible and no later than
28 days after the complaint is received
8.4 Members shall provide the same level of co-operation to either a third party or
an intermediary who acts on behalf of a complainant as they would offer to the
complainant
8.5 If complaints cannot be resolved between the Member and the Member’s client
within a reasonable time, then the Member shall advise the Society of the
complaint. The Member shall advise the client that the complaint has been
referred to the Society and provide details of the Society’s complaint handling
procedure, including the right of access to the IDRS Dispute Resolution Service if
the complaint remains unresolved following the Society’s intervention
8.6 Clients should be informed that, although advisable, they do not have to pursue
complaints through the procedures laid out in this Code and that they may
pursue other options, such as independent arbitration or court action, at any
time
8.7 A written record should be kept of each complaint made to a Member and this
should be made available on request to the Society
9. Disciplinary Procedure
9.1 Any breach of this Code of Practice is considered by the Society as a serious
matter and may result in disciplinary proceedings being instigated by the
Society against the Member
9.2 The Society’s disciplinary procedures are set out in its Complaints and
Disciplinary Procedures which are deemed to be incorporated within this Code
of Practice and which have been read and agreed to by the Member
I……………………………………………………………………….(full name)
of………………………………………………………………(company name)
a Member of the Society hereby undertake to comply with this Code of Practice in every
respect and to be bound by its terms.
Signed……………………………..
Date…………………………………
The Code of Practice is available in Braille, Audio or
large print – for your copy please contact the Society of
Will Writers on 0800 838270