In this article Private Client Partner, Cara Grant, reports continuing low numbers of people making Wills, and highlights the potential pitfalls of not instructing a regulated professional to do it for you.
Independent research commissioned by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (‘STEP’) – which surveyed 2,000 members of the public in the UK aged 18 and over – has found that 49% do not have a Will, increasing to 65% among people aged 45-54; a statistic which has remained largely unchanged over the years.
Of the 51% who have made a Will, 55% had their Will prepared by a qualified Solicitor/Will writer, 22% made a low-cost Will online (only 3% checked that the online Will writer was qualified) – increasing to 32% of people aged 18-24; and 22% wrote their own DIY will – increasing to 34% of people aged 18-24.
So, who should make your Will?
Whilst anyone can write a Will, STEP has warned about the unregulated Will writing sector. It warns of the dangers of “cowboy” Will writers causing bereaved families distress and leading to millions in extra tax being paid.
The report found examples of:
- Wills containing errors;
- False claims about Wills leading to increased tax bills;
- A fee being quoted for writing a Will but then charging additional costs not covered within the terms of business, for example add-on charges for each provision contained in it for a probate trust that is not needed, storage fees etc.
- Cases of clients not being advised that the creation of a lifetime trust could trigger an immediate inheritance tax charge with another falling due if the client dies within 7 years.
- Clients being told that they could avoid care home fees by putting their home and other assets in to a trust during their lifetime. This will be deemed to be deliberate deprivation of assets which is ineffective for care home funding assessments and can lead to serious problems.
- Cases of incompetence leading to significant tax bills, with examples of tax charges in many instances in the tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Whilst there are many regulated Will writers, anyone can set themselves up as a Will writer leaving unsuspecting members of the public without protection. All too often, people don’t realise that they have been a victim of rogue advice until it is too late for them and their families. We have come across many examples of unregulated Will writers charging hidden fees and appointing themselves as executors (to their financial advantage).
False promises about avoiding care home fees and misleading adverts are commonplace and far too many people are lured in to thinking getting a free or cheap Will online will save them money when this is not always the case.
Will drafting can be complex and should be done by those who are trained and have a recognised qualification with proven experience and insurance.
At Gaby Hardwicke all of our Will writers are experienced, qualified and insured. Whilst making a Will with us may not be as cheap as ‘off the shelf’ or ‘online’, why risk missing out on valuable advice about inheritance tax planning, care fee planning and the efficient use of trusts to protect your estate for your family? Why risk paying thousands of pounds at a later date, or heartache for your family, when things don’t turn out as you thought they would at an already very difficult time?
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