The UK’s competition watchdog, the CMA, to investigate pre-paid probate plans (PPPPs)

So, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), the UK’s competition watchdog, have decided to investigate “quickie” divorces, will writing and pre-paid probate plans (PPPPs).

The CMA acknowledge that there are now other options out there to the conventional law firm. There is also the question of regulation. Pre-paid funeral plans came under FCA regulation last year which saw a number of providers leave the market (either voluntarily or otherwise), yet pre-paid probate plans and will writing still remain unregulated sectors.

It’s not for me to dilate here on the issue of divorces, quickies or otherwise, as that isn’t my domain.

But with regards to PPPPs, I think it fair to say that these are controversial, to say the least. They greatly divide opinion. My regulatory body, the IPW, are strongly advising its members not to sell these products.

And Prior Knowledge don’t!

The concerns of the CMA around PPPPs seems to be vis a vis pressure selling as well as their concern about there being a lack of transparency about what costs are covered by the plans, or people being sold unnecessary plans. Prior Knowledge openly welcomes such an investigation to get clarity as to how the profession moves forward with these plans: do they stay as they are; are they informally self-regulated; do they become formally regulated by, perhaps the FCA; or are they banned completely. Either way, clarity and direction is desperately needed.

As I have stated many times before, will writing is an unregulated activity. Even if conducted by a solicitor, the solicitor practice will be regulated, but the will writing activity itself will not be. This is, in our view, perverse. How can it be allowed that somebody goes from any type of job on a Friday to writing Wills on a Monday?

With no training whatsoever. With no insurance whatsoever. With nothing!

The IPW as a regulatory body, Prior Knowledge as a firm, and me as an individual, believe passionately that will writing should become regulated. So, again, we welcome a meaningful investigation of the will writing sector by the CMA.

As Fellows of the Institute of Professional Willwriters, we are already self-regulated; we are already adequately insured; we already adequately trained, and we also comply with a Trading Standards Institute-approved code of conduct. We are the ONLY regulatory body in the profession who can say that. As a result, we believe we are already adequately placed to absorb regulation if/when it comes………….because we as a firm are already doing it.

The deadline for responses is 4th September 2023, and it should also be noted that the project is at an early stage, and the CMA have yet to form a view on any of the three topics. But we applaud the fact that will writing and PPPPs are to be looked at. We can but hope, that a worthwhile and meaningful conclusion is arrived at.