Many of us will only make a Will as we advance in years or face illness. Perhaps we think the ‘unthinkable’ can’t happen to us; yet it really is important to have a Will, whatever your age.
The issue of choosing who to write your Will has received plenty of press lately, with thousands of people potentially at risk of being cheated by ‘dodgy salesmen’ offering their unregulated Will writing services.
Will writing services make claims that they are considerably cheaper than solicitors, but according to Which? the cost difference is relatively minor. A thousand people were surveyed recently and over half of them believed that all Will writers are solicitors. In reality, this is often not the case.
Solicitors and legal executives, unlike Will writing companies, are:
- strictly regulated;
- constantly undertaking training to stay up-to-date; and
- guaranteed to have professional insurance, which provides redress for you should something go wrong.
When considering the protection afforded by these “safety nets”, the minor cost increase is surely worth it for peace of mind.
The Legal Ombudsman, a free service that looks at legal complaints for consumers, recently highlighted the dangers of using Will writing companies and called for Will writing to be regulated to afford protection to the public.
With no regulations Will writing companies are free to apply high-pressure selling techniques, and will offer a Will writing service for either a very low or discounted fee. The sales team will then recommend that they are appointed as executors and will try to up-sell other services, including transferring a property into a Trust in a bid to avoid care fees in later life.
Currently the Legal Services Board does not regulate or approve any Will writing company, whether it is to carry out Will writing or for probate activities, despite what some may claim on their websites. (It should be noted that non-lawyers in Scotland are subject to the same regulations as their legally qualified counter-parts).
You may still be thinking: “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Consider then the unfortunate case of David Nash. In 2010 Mr Nash admitted stealing more than £400,000 from the estates of deceased clients. We’ll leave the last word to Rita Leat, of the Fellowship of Professional Willwriters and Probate Practitioners:
“There is no regulation and nothing to stop someone coming out of prison one day and setting up as a will-writer the next.”