Consumers are being warned their beneficiaries could end up paying inflated fees if they take up offers of free or discounted Will writing services.
A recent investigation by the Independent on Sunday revealed some high street banks, solicitors and dedicated Will writing services were urging customers to appoint them as executors on the Wills and levying fees of up to 4.5 per cent on the estate in death. That adds up to £22,500 on an estate worth £500,000.
Many people think their husband or wife will inherit everything if they die intestate (without a Will). But that does not always happen, so it’s important to have a Will written for you while avoiding the potential pitfalls.
Choose who draws up your will wisely
It’s vital you choose a firm that is affiliated to a recognised regulatory body carries full professional indemnity insurance, and also carries out Continuing Professional Development. It means that in the event of their negligence there will be compensation for the additional and unnecessary distress caused to already grieving family members.
Many free or discounted Will writing services will not be affiliated to a regulatory body, which is one of the reasons for their low cost Will. Clearly the advantage of seeking advice from fully regulated organisations is the reassurance of knowing you are receiving accurate and up to date advice from a qualified professional who has a duty of care and confidentiality.
Dying without a will is bad enough but a badly written or out of date Will could be just as dangerous. Anyone can call themselves a Will writer, whether or not they have any training or experience. The result of a badly written will can lead to arguments and even an expensive court case, the costs for which are likely to be paid from the deceased’s estate.
Many discounted, non-regulated or non-trained Will writing services induce clients by marketing their low cost service. Few people realise, until they actually instruct them, that there are many hidden costs including an annual fee to store original documents with them, whereas many reputable organisations store Wills for little or no charge.
Executing a Will within a proper legal framework allows a person to ensure that possessions will be dealt with in accordance with your wishes and by trusted people.
There has been a recent change in the Intestacy Rules – the legal framework for when someone passes away without a Will – which means that close relatives may be entitled to a greater legacy from a loved one than previously was the case.
However, that legacy may still not be as much as the deceased would have wanted that person to receive. On the other hand he or she could end up inheriting more than the deceased would have wanted, potentially leaving the children, particularly those from a previous relationship, with nothing.
It’s important to get proper financial advice so that the Will can be drawn up in the most tax-efficient way possible. It is also important to review your Will regularly to adapt to changes in the law or changes to your personal situation and accurately reflect your wishes.
Choose your executors well
Executors are responsible for exercising your estate in accordance with your instructions after you have died. It is a responsible and demanding role, and involves handling large sums of money.
Some firms will try to persuade you that they should be appointed executor of your Will. In the Independent on Sunday investigation firms were accused of using aggressive tactics to get their way, but you are entitled to appoint anyone you choose for the role. But don’t forget to check that the people you choose are happy to take on the role.
You should also appoint a default or substitute executor as a fall-back position in case your chosen executor is unwilling or unable to act.
Not everybody will recognise or understand all the possible issues – and ways to resolve them – so caution must be taken when deciding who should write one of the most important legal documents you ever complete.
For more information please contact TWP Accounting LLP on 01932 704700.