The Society of Will Writers and Estate Planning Practitioners in conjunction with the SWW Professional Standards Board, hereby announce a new version of the SWW Code of Practice (2024.01) is now available and will be enforced with immediate effect.

This version contains the single largest update to the Code in recent years, Clause 10. Oversight and Governance. This update, drafted with support from a team led by Nick Ash of the SWW PSB is designed to support the SWW’s modernisation efforts and ensure that compliance measures are of the utmost strength.

The project brings together a year’s worth of work on strengthening redress mechanisms for consumers, strengthening auditing and monitoring procedures, as well as now providing the SWW with more powers to combat non-compliance and better support members when facing issues with consumers. Additionally, this update provides an avenue for other members of the SWW and indeed the wider legal profession to bring to the attention of the SWW any valid allegations of practices leading to consumer detriment.

Under this updated Code, the SWW is introducing a series of sanctions that it shall have the power to enact over members who are found non-compliant through an investigation into their practice. These sanctions fall under a three-tier policy, with tiers 2 and 3 being public sanctions designed to better inform consumers when deciding on who to engage for their estate planning needs.

Nick comments on the project:

The current Code of Practice is a blunt stick, the only option the Society has is to revoke the membership of a non-compliant member. This helps nobody and it doesn’t reflect the situations that face the Society when concerns are raised.

The revisions to the Code in the form of the new oversight and governance piece, which I introduced at the SWW Conference last year, aim to address these issues. The new powers are aimed to make the Code more credible, to enable the Society to better support its members and to enhance consumer protection.

We have widened the scope of issues that the Society is able to investigate. Previously the Society was only able to intervene in disputes after a client had engaged and paid for services from a member. The new Code allows the Society and its PSB to investigate a wider range of disputes and activities. This brings the Code in line with those of similar membership groups and the new Code pre-empts the Competition and Markets Authority investigations into the sector.

We have introduced a three-tier disciplinary structure, which means that the Society will be able to support members who experience issues. Allowing them space to improve both their knowledge and practice with the support of the Society. The current Code only allows us to throw them out. In line with other similar professional membership organisations disciplinary decisions will be publicised at levels 2 and 3.   

Overall the Oversight and Governance section of the Code represents a step change in the way in which the Society, its Members and the general public will be served in the future. It is in line with the PSB’s mission to improve professionalism within our sector.

Chairman of the SWW PSB Antony Brinkman adds:

As the Chairman of the Professional Standards Board (PSB), I am writing to you with an important message regarding our Code of Practice.

With nearly 2000 members in the Society, our common ground lies in our adherence to the Code of Practice. This document serves as the backbone of our membership body, providing stability and certainty. More importantly, it instils confidence in the public, assuring them that a Society member is committed to delivering a high-quality service.

Recently, the PSB has undertaken a comprehensive review of the Code, introducing crucial updates and additions. Simultaneously, the Society’s management has conducted a top-to-bottom assessment to ensure the Code remains relevant and robust.

Let’s face it – for many members, the Code is initially read upon joining, and subsequent references may be infrequent. I urge you to take a moment to revisit this essential document. Block off a couple of hours in your diary over the next week or two to refresh your understanding of the Code. You may discover valuable information that can be immediately beneficial to your business.

The PSB values your input, and we welcome any feedback you may have. If you wish to communicate with us, please feel free to email us at [email protected].

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and for your continued commitment to upholding the standards of the Society of Will Writers.

This updated Code supersedes the previous version (2022.08) which was introduced at the time to outlaw the sale of pre-paid probate, as well as carry out additional minor changes to grammar and formatting. A further top-down review of the Code has been conducted by SWW management to bring it in line with other ongoing modernisation projects.

All members will be provided with a copy of this updated Code to sign and return to the SWW alongside their next annual audit.

To read the updated Code in full now, please click here. A downloadable PDF is also available at the bottom of the same page.

Members should be reminded that they are to familiarise themselves with the Code regularly, and in line with Clause 2.7 (a), ensure a copy is made available upon request to all clients free of charge.

We thank you for your understanding and continued support.

The Society of Will Writers

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About The Society of Will Writers

The Society of Will Writers is a non-profit making self-regulatory organisation whose primary objectives are the advancement, education and ethical standards within the will writing profession.

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