Solicitors warning – watch out for unqualified, unscrupulous Will writers

Consumers preparing their Will are at risk if they allow unqualified and unregulated Will writers full control of their estate’s assets.

A survey conducted by STEP – The Society of Estate and Trust Practitioners reveals that 63% of its UK members have experience of cases where Will-writing companies have gone out of business and disappeared with their clients Will. Just over 1/3 have encountered cases where incompetence had led to significant additional tax bills and 60% have come across Will-writers whose Wills are invalid due to basic mistakes in the Will such as basic typing errors, problems with witnesses or lack of legal knowledge by the Will-writers.

Private Client Partner Chris Taylor highlights the ongoing issue of unregulated Will-writers as the Gazette reports this week on the sudden close of another Will-writing firm, Nottingham based The Will Writing Company Limited. “Solicitors are subject to strict regulation by the SRA to ensure they deliver the best service to clients. Leaving control of your estate in the hands of unqualified and unregulated Will-writers could have disastrous consequences.”

It is very difficult to identify reputable service providers as many now operate online.  Anyone, particularly people looking to commit fraud, can create a website that looks professional and has many testimonial recommendations.

There is no regulation to ensure administrators do not misappropriate a clients’ estate assets. The estate administrator may have full control of the clients’ assets and safeguards ought to be put in place to protect the testator’s estate from unscrupulous behaviour such as pressuring the consumer to name them as their attorney or executor.

The Law Society has highlighted cases where consumers have been mis-sold a type of trust which is often called an ‘Asset Protection Trust’, ‘Life Interest Trust’, or ‘Protective Property Trust’, but it is also referred to under various other guises. Consumers are paying thousands of pounds for a product that promises to protect a person’s home against possible future care home fees but the consumer may not have received adequate advice as to its applicability, its appropriateness for their circumstances or its possible ineffectiveness for the purpose for which it was sold.

People who are looking to make a Will should seek professional advice and engage a solicitor who can make sure that their Will is legally watertight and advise on complex financial issues such as inheritance tax and trusts planning.