The trial of an unqualified will writer took place in Bristol recently when a 45-year-old man was charged with the theft of £800,000 from a succession of elderly clients.
The man had duped childless elderly people into inserting a clause into their wills which ostensibly allowed him to determine to which charities money they intended to leave to good causes was to be allocated. Instead, he used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself, including the purchase of expensive cars and a property in Spain.
He was charged with four counts of theft and one of forgery. On conviction, personal assets acquired by crime may be subject to forfeiture. However, in most such cases, the losses are never fully made good.
Using an unqualified will writer is a risky business. Recent research by the Law Society revealed the extent of the risks members of the public are being exposed to by using unregulated, unqualified and uninsured will writers.
The findings revealed instances of badly drafted wills that rendered the deceased person’s estate wholly or partially intestate, poor tax planning and cases where the will simply disappeared. In addition, the research found that there are often hidden charges which inflate the cost of the will writing service so that the final bill ends up being far higher than the advertised price.
Unlike solicitors, unregulated will writers do not have to be legally qualified or insured. As there is no regulatory body, there is no mechanism for bringing a complaint, and without insurance there may be no means of redress should things go wrong. Solicitors, on the other hand, are professionally qualified to do the work, are bound by a stringent code of professional conduct and, in the very rare event of a loss to a client, clients are protected by the solicitor’s professional indemnity insurance, which is compulsory.