In a recent Mail on Sunday article, Journalist Tony Hetherington talks about the ‘merry-go-round of misery’ he has seen caused by a number of Will writing companies who claim to help clients but then go bust taking client’s money with them. The problems Tony has encountered are not uncommon but it is rarely reported because of the business practices of this type of set up, whereby one company will close and immediately open up again under a new name. The majority of the general public are not aware of the dangers of using such companies and do not know who they are actually dealing with.
At present, Will writing is not regulated so anyone can write a Will. If you want to, you can write a will yourself. There is the conventional option of picking up a Will pack from your local post office or newsagents. It is also now possible for you to attend a course to learn how to write a Will in a day, for around £100. After that, you can set up your own Will writing business; as easy as that! But, do you want these people putting a legal document in place for you to dispose of your entire life’s earnings? My answer would be “no!” Especially not for a fee of £2000 when you might not even be receiving proper legal advice. After all, how much can you learn in a few hours?
Why should you use a solicitor instead of a Will writer?
The reasons people have given for not using a solicitor include the cost, the time involved, the legal jargon used and the formality of going into a solicitor’s office. Whilst some of these things can be off putting, there is no guarantee that these things will not be present even when using an unregulated Will writer. The cost of using a solicitor may be a little more than the average Will writer however what you get for your money is peace of mind!
Firstly solicitors are all regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and are therefore accountable and traceable if their firm is shut down. Secondly, solicitors are insured and therefore if any errors are made, the insurance company will be able to cover any loss arising. Thirdly, many solicitors will have trained for a number of years in a specialist area before giving advice and therefore, you are paying not only for the drafting of the Will but also for the advice so that you can make an informed decision as to the type of Will that you need.
Solicitors also have to abide by a code of conduct and act in the individual’s best interests and therefore the way in which your matter is dealt with (including turnaround times) should be much quicker. With regard to costs, it will very much depend on the expertise of your solicitor. At SAS Daniels, we are able to give you a choice of payment options for your Will and legal advice.
I was recently asked for a second opinion about a Will writing company which had just done a national roadshow and recommended to my clients that they make ‘mirror’ Wills, all four Lasting Powers of Attorney, Advanced Decisions and an Asset Protection Trust against Care Fees. The Wills themselves were fairly cheap however, all the additional documents brought the bill to around £3000 of which £1500 was unnecessary as the Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney could cover the issues dealt with by the Advanced Decision. The Asset Protection Trust, in this case, would also be unnecessary as it would have been caught under the “deprivation of assets” rules if the individual should go into care. Needless to say when questioned, the company back tracked and the clients lost confidence in them!
Top tips when making your Will
- Choose a solicitor
- Choose a specialist in Wills and Probate
- Look for additional accreditations such as; STEP (the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners) an international organisation which requires individuals to have additional legal training in this field of law; SFE (Solicitors For the Elderly) a national organisation which assesses soft skills to be able to deal with vulnerable individuals; WIQS (Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme) a scheme set up by the law society setting up minimum standard for firms dealing with Wills.
For more information on writing a Will or any other wills and wealth planning matters, please contact our Wills & Wealth Planning team on 01625 442148.
To read more Tony Hetherington’s article in full, please visit the Mail on Sunday website.