The BBC’s current affairs series Panorama has highlighted the risks of using unregulated will writing services to document what is ultimately one of the most important decisions a person will ever make – their last will and testament.
As Luke Roberts of Hine Downing Solicitors explains, many clients mistakenly believe that will writers are Solicitors – in many cases they are not. “Clients are often totally unaware that will writers are unregulated; they are not required to have any formal legal training; and do not need to be insured – which can be devastating if something goes wrong”
“Claims that Solicitors do not provide home visits, or have hidden charges are false – almost all firms will be happy to meet with clients in their own homes if they wish, and Solicitors will usually draft a will for a fixed fee, agreed in advance” Mr Roberts explains. Most firms will also offer to store wills on behalf of the client as part of the service, and at no extra charge.
The BBC documentary highlights the problems which can arise through a lack of regulation – high pressure sales techniques; hidden charges; false information, and poor advice. As Mr Roberts points out, however, the problems can extend far beyond this. “However rare, there are obviously times when Solicitors get it wrong, but if this does happen, the client has protection. Not only should an established firm of Solicitors have the expertise to put things right, but if there is a problem that cannot be solved, the client is protected by the firm’s insurance policy”
The worst examples of these unregulated groups include wrong advice; the mis-selling of doomed strategies to avoid care home fees or inheritance tax, and a total failure to follow even the most basic precautions, particularly when taking instructions for a controversial will, such as one that disinherits a family member. There have even been instances of unregulated will writers being jailed for stealing from estates, leaving families hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket.
“You must never forget that your will is one of the last and most lasting statements you will ever make – it will have huge repercussions. As with any life changing decision, you should never accept the advice of anyone less than an expert; one who is properly trained and fully accountable. When choosing a Solicitor, be sure to ask friends or relatives who they would recommend – a local law firm with loyal clients and a strong following is the best way to find out who you can trust.”
For more information on making a will, or to review arrangements already made, contact Luke Roberts on 01326 316655 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.