The Eastern Region Specialist Operations Unit is currently investigating over 100 reports of fraudulent activity relating to the Universal group of companies which includes Universal Tax Solutions, Universal Wealth Preservation Ltd, Universal Asset Protection Ltd and Universal Trustees Ltd. The Universal Group companies' directors, Steven and Melanie Long, were arrested as inquiries continue.
The Universal Group ran seminars entitled 'Keep It in the Family', in which they made promises to protect investors' assets from future inheritance tax and/or care home fees by the use of wills, whereby they appointed themselves as executors, and trust arrangements where they were named as trustees with the ability to charge for their ongoing services.
Since the collapse of the Universal Group (at least one of the companies is in liquidation and the business premises have all been closed and the company website taken down), their clients have found it increasingly difficult to get responses to emails, letters or phone calls.
Instead they are left in an untenable situation as their homes are registered in the names of the trustees of these questionable trusts (or in some instances Mr and Mrs Long themselves), and the only evidence they have of their cash investments is the scant paperwork which the Universal Group provided them with at the outset, and their wills (and in some cases LPA's) are missing.
In the face of a dawning reality that their affairs are not in the order they were given to believe they were in, we are receiving increasing numbers of enquiries by the victims of the Universal Group asking what they can do to remedy the situation.
In the meantime this case highlights the dangers of having an unregulated inheritance tax planning industry. Unfortunately, anyone can set themselves up as estate planner or will writer with, as this case bears out, devastating results.