Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Marketers offering will-writing services have often undergone courses that qualify them to write wills. Some marketers might have completed a degree in law but those who are not qualified solicitors should avoid implying that they are (National Legal Services, 26 November 2003, and Premier Wills, 7 August 2002). Claims such as “qualified legal staff”, “legal advice” and “legal services” are likely to be unacceptable if the marketers are not qualified solicitors (Manor Wills Direct, 20 October 2004, and Paragon Associates, 27 March 2002). Company names that refer to “Legal” are likely to be unacceptable if the marketers do not hold a recognised legal qualification (National Legal Services, 26 November 2003) and a law degree has been considered inadequate to justify claims such as “our fully qualified legal staff” (Wills Legacy & Law Ltd, July 2000). Even when not referring to “legal” qualifications, marketers should ensure readers are clear about the qualifications they hold by either stating their qualifications (for example, “accredited by the Willwriters Association”) or making clear they are not qualified solicitors. They should be mindful of where in local papers and directories they place their ads: it would be misleading, for example, for such ads to appear under the heading of “legal service”, “solicitors” and the like.
The Code states that marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive (Rule 4.2). Although encouraging the making a will is likely to be considered a justifiable reason, marketers should recognise that the subject of death should be handled with a degree of restraint. Claims such as “If we go into care, our home will automatically go to our children, right? Wrong!” and “When someone dies, their possessions automatically go to their next of kin, right? Wrong!” were considered not to have caused undue fear and distress, not least because the claims were factually correct (National Legal Services, 26 November 2003). But, in 2006, the ASA concluded that another marketer trying to raise awareness of the need for a will had overstepped the mark. That marketer claimed “...‘Your Children may NOT inherit Your Home and hard earned Savings ... but the Government or others could!!’ Care Fees, Inheritance Tax, Huge Legal Fees etc. devastates thousands of families unnecessarily … You could Lose Your Home if you go into Care ... Your Children could end up in Local Government CARE while your family argue who will have them … Months or Years could pass before your estate is settled leaving your family stressed and in financial difficulties ... Somebody you DON'T want to inherit ... COULD! Without a Will Government Laws decide all this for you!!” The ASA considered the claims were alarmist (Allguard Legal Services Ltd, 18 October 2006).
Advertisers should ensure that they do not make misleading claims in ads for will writing services. The ASA ruled as misleading an ad which implied that in all cases people's homes would go to the Government if they died intestate (Allguard Legal Services Ltd, 9 May 2012). In 2005, the ASA received complaints about an ad that stated “You can prevent the whole of your home being taken if you need care in later life by having a property trust written into your will …”. The ASA considered that the ad exaggerated the benefits to the testator during his lifetime and the claim was therefore misleading (Willmakers of Distinction Ltd, June 2005).
See Litigation: Claims management