We welcomed the airing of BBC's Panorama "Wills: The Big Rip Off" on the 9th August 2010, which exposed some of the problems with Will Writers. Marsden Rawsthorn have for some time been warning about the dangers of using unregulated and unqualified Will Writers to prepare your will, and worst still execute probate.
One the attractions of Will Writers is initially the cost seems very attractive. Often, as we saw in Panorama, initial fees quoted are low, in the example yesterday £60.However, once the salesperson visits, this is soon inflated as the Will Writers charge based on the number of clauses that are added, often these are unnecessary and can cause further problems if not they are not written correctly. Some examples we had dealt with include an instance where the client wished to exclude a family member from their will and the will writer used a generic term i.e. children rather than naming the individual beneficiaries. We have also seen examples where beneficiaries cannot be indentified as they are members of a class, for example, grandchildren whenever born, which would prevent distribution of the estate until no further grandchildren could possibly be born. Often tying up the estate for many years.
Having a will prepared incorrectly is worrying enough, but even more worrying is that some of these Will Writing companies are executing Probate. As seen last night if the executor is unscrupulous, the beneficiaries have no form of recourse to recover the money that is rightfully theirs.
A qualified solicitor must have indemnity insurance in place, and solicitors contribute to a compensation fund. This ensures that if there are any problems clients are protected. This protection is not provided by Will Writers and this is an area where regulation must be introduced. Solicitors have for sometime been calling for regulation in the areas of Wills and Probate. Scotland will be introducing this shortly and we were encouraged by the comment made by Craig Jones of the Legal Services Board saying:
"A solicitor is regulated when carrying out will-writing activity but other types of adviser may not be. The reason for this is that will-writing is not currently covered by the definition of a reserved legal activity. We will begin in the autumn to review the extent of reserved legal activities generally and our approach for deciding whether a legal activity should be reserved or regulated at all."
If you are worried about your Will please contact our team on 0800 294 4410.
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For details of the professional rules governing the conduct of solicitors go to www.sra.org.uk/code-of-conduct.page