By Terence Willey, Terence Willey & Co
In an age of ever-increasing Will service providers, the completion of a Will still does not remain a reserved service subject to regulation. A recent Legal Ombudsman Report highlighted specific areas where improvement is required and those practicing in this area are recommended to note the advice it gives.
Will writing, being an unregulated activity, means the consumer should take great care to ensure they seek the advice and guidance of those who are suitably experienced, qualified and insured in this area. Having been involved in the preparation and completion of Wills for over 50 years now, it is interesting to observe how this service has evolved.
Some of the key conclusions and advice from the Ombudsman was to avoid misleading promotions and marketing, and to be clear about potential costs and time frames for completing the work, coupled with an explanation of the limits of roles and responsibilities.
In addition, some providers set high annual charges for storing original Wills and for ultimate Estate Administration following death. The Report goes on to say that costs should be made absolutely clear to the consumer at the outset, and that they be advised under what scenario those costs might be increased. Where professional Executors are appointed as Trustees, it is advisable to establish and agree the potential administration costs before completing a Will.
Computerised Will packages are available, and are often used by Will providers but sadly can fall short of individual requirements as they do not always offer best protection by the incorporation of standardised Clauses.
In more recent years, consumers have been lured into free Will packages provided that a legacy is left to a specific charity. Very often and for obvious reasons, such free service will only include what is described as a simple Will. Believe me, there is no such thing!
What is often overlooked is the necessity to consider some careful Estate Planning, and the possible Tax ramifications upon death during the process of completing a new Will. It is therefore very important to consult someone with the experience and qualifications to assist and advise you.
I have always believed in the importance in spending as much time as is necessary with individuals to ensure that the final Will is clear, concise and “tailor made” and moreover at a marketable fee in the first instance without being subject to time costing.
Wills should be addressed every time there is a change in family circumstances, to ensure that they remain relevant to prevailing circumstances.
I was reminded by my law tutor that Will drafting is a precarious practice as they are one of the most revocable documents in law and in most circumstances have to rely on conjecture and therefore should be reviewed regularly.
The message therefore to the consumer must be always to use a tried and trusted Practitioner in this area of law and consider it as money well spent for your protection, your family and your chosen beneficiaries.