Writing a will – Should you instruct a Solicitor?
The Importance of Using Solicitors when Writing your Will
Your Will is one of the most important legal documents that you can sign in your lifetime. However, as it currently stands the Will writing sector in the UK is unregulated and there are no restrictions on who can prepare a Will. This means anyone, whether qualified or not, can sell their Will writing services to you. As a result it is easy for individuals to fall victim to rogue Will writers.
At present there are a staggering 208,000 unregulated firms in England and Wales that are providing Will writing services. Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), the membership body setting the standards for older client law, recently carried out a survey which found that 98% of participants believed the sector should be regulated. Despite the growing calls for an increase in regulation, the Legal Services Board (LSB) has announced it does not plan to carry out a statutory review of the unregulated sector, and there are no plans for legislation to be introduced to deal with the growing problems.
The lack of oversight and regulation has resulted in cases where older and vulnerable people have fallen victim to rogue Will writers, leaving them and their families thousands of pounds out of pocket and causing them emotional distress. Michael Culver, Chair of SFE and founder of Culver Law, said;
“Older and vulnerable people are being financially and emotionally impacted by unqualified salespeople with no specialist expertise, without the right training and qualifications, or the right levels of insurance in place.
The system leaves them wide open to making decisions which can have irreversible consequences on families across the UK. There must be more protection in place.”
There are many risks in people using unqualified Will writers, particularly in cases where the writer lacks the expertise to recognise a threat of financial abuse, undue influence or any capacity issues of their client. Furthermore, specialist advice is very important when it comes to more blended and complex family situations, for instance in cases where there are second marriages involving stepchildren from one or both partners. Michael Culver’s comment shows that unregulated firms may not have the necessary high level of insurance cover in place to protect against negligence. This cover is essential in the event Wills aren’t completed correctly or if inadequate or misleading advice has been given.
Culver’s call for more protection highlights how the current system is enabling people to make decisions that can have irreversible consequences on families across the country. Rogue Will writers have the potential to cause great emotional turmoil to families and friends, and devastating financial losses too. In a recent Telegraph article Anne Easton explained how her neighbour and friend, John “Jack” Rhodes, was preyed on by a Will writer. It was not until after John’s death that she discovered the Will writer had been appointed as executor and he was not fulfilling any of his duties.
Digital and unregulated companies may provide a cheaper service, but ultimately it is a risk choosing these services for your Will and in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “In this world, you get what you pay for”. Writing a Will requires careful legal consideration- you will determine what happens to your property, money and belongings after you die. You may want to include wishes regarding the care of your children or the distribution of your assets, or consider inheritance tax planning. A Will prepared by solicitors can give you peace of mind that your wishes and directions meet legal standards, and accurate drafting and planning can mitigate the likelihood of family disputes, reduce future administration costs and delay, and minimise the risk of negligence.
Solicitors for the elderly recommend you always seek the advice of a regulated specialist when making a Will. Our Private Client team have the specialist training and expertise needed to deal with complex family situations and to work with older and vulnerable clients, and our team have prepared and advised on countless Wills. The impact of not receiving regulated specialist advice can result in devastating consequences for you and your loved ones, please contact a member of our team to discuss how we can assist you and your family.
Written by Anouschka Fenley – Paralegal