Fraudulent Will Writers uncovered – ensure your Will doesn’t R.I.P. you off
Have you made a Last Will and Testament with somebody other than a solicitor?
The BBC’s Panorama
programme has uncovered a shocking industry of unregulated Will writers who now account for over 10% of Wills written – but who aren’t so concerned about offering value for money, or even a legal service in some cases.
If your Last Will and Testament has not been drawn up by a solicitor then the chances are that you are at serious risk of being ripped off – with a capital RIP. And there won’t be anything you can do about it. Because, the unavoidable fact of the matter is, you won’t be here to do something about it.
Everyone should make a Will
leaving their treasured possessions and estate value to loved ones. But many people are duped into writing Last Wills and Testaments with unregulated Will writing companies whose initial charges just seem to escalate – and that’s before the hidden charges kick in.
If you are approached on the street or by telephone by Will writing companies who offer to come to your home to draw up your Last Will and Testament – be very wary. The initial price sounds great, sometimes as low as £30.00
. But add on the extras and you’ll be paying extra in this life – and the next.
One so-called £30.00 Last Will and Testament quote soon climbed to a bill of £1,700
; another couple paid an astronomical bill of £2,500 for mirror Wills plus the probate and administration of the Trusts set up for their children
Many of these unregulated Will writing companies add in clauses to protect your assets against paying Care Home fees – again, for a tidy sum. In one case a Will which a solicitor would have charged around £60.00
for was charged at £2,900 by these unscrupulous Will writing companies
And then there’s the matter of adding a handling fee for acting as your executor – something often hidden deep in the small print and not pointed out when you’re signing on the dotted line. Acting as an executor is a complex business, and these Will writing companies will often persuade clients – particularly vulnerable elderly people – that they shouldn’t leave such a burden to a relative. However, acting as an executor to the Will is a position of special trust and it is close friends or relatives who are best suited for the role.
Many of these Last Will and Testament writing firms charge a percentage of the estate’s amount to act as executor – a fact that most often only comes to light after the client has passed away.
Most shocking of all, some Will writing companies were found to be downright criminal in their handling of clients’ affairs as executor. Where relatives knew they were beneficiaries of the Will, some received cheques for large sums which then bounced. In other cases, people who didn’t know they were beneficiaries were not contacted and the money left to them was, effectively, stolen by the Will writing companies.
You should always let your beneficiaries know that you have included them in your Last Will and Testament – you don’t have to tell them what exactly you’ve left them, but just so that they are aware in case they are not contacted on your death.
The programme found that one firm of Will writers employed solicitors who have been struck off, and two were subsequently jailed for fraud and theft.
Whilst there is currently no legal regulation of the Will writing industry at the moment, the Legal Services Board has said it will make a "case for regulation on a rapid timetable".
Simpson Millar’s Head of Wills and Probate, had this reaction to the programme’s content: "Unfortunately, I have come across these situations far too often and have had to put right Wills drafted by unregulated Will writers who have little knowledge of the law. It makes me angry when I hear of members of the public paying thousands of pounds for a Will when the real cost should have been a small fraction of that. Solicitors’ charges are usually very good value for money and it is only a solicitor who has the right legal training to do this work properly. A Will is a very important part of planning for the future and it's equally important to get it prepared by a qualified solicitor."Useful links