This article was published on August 11th, 2014
Cheap Will writing companies are not always what they seem. They are seldom qualified, not regulated and often have no insurance to protect their clients against any errors.
A so called ‘estate planning’ company has recently been wound up by the UK government’s Insolvency Service after reports of unscrupulous sales tactics and poor quality services triggered an investigation into their business practices.
The firm is one of many ‘cowboy companies’, who claim to protect their clients’ assets through cheap products such as writing Wills, organising trusts and arranging lasting powers of attorney. They claim they can help clients avoid using their assets to pay for care home fees but the reality is very different. These types of misleading claims are widely regarded by qualified solicitors as highly risky and in fact ineffective if they are ever challenged by local authorities.
Companies offering cheap products do so without accurately informing clients of the risk of being challenged and also the quality of the service they provide is ineffective, inconsistent, inaccurate or incomplete.
The Official Receiver’s investigations found that company employees would pressurise elderly and vulnerable customers, when meeting them in their own homes, into paying fees up front for the service and also encouraging them to consider the more expensive package deals.
This particular ‘estate planning’ firm had 132 clients who had been told that their products would be ready within three to eight weeks and only 5 Wills were finalised, 4 ‘estate preservation trusts’ completed and 11 lasting powers of attorney arranged. Many of its customers will never receive the products or services they paid up front for.
More and more of these unprofessional companies are targeting the old and vulnerable, to get fees paid upfront and then not delivering a good service with the Will not being written up to a professional standard and littered with errors and inconsistencies. It is so important that people’s final wishes for their estate are followed through and many individuals are now left with uncertainty.
The Official Receiver deemed that the company in question had failed the majority of its customers without any hope of their position improving and therefore wound up the company under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986.
An insolvency Service spokesperson said the firm ‘used forceful and misleading sales practices to obtain up-front fees, from a predominantly elderly clientele, for legal products which it then failed to deliver’
‘From the outset of its trading, the company had accepted clients even though it had no firm arrangements in place to produce and register the legal products.’
For all your estate administration and planning it is better to use professionals who know all the pitfalls and potential problems rather than a DIY approach. Leave your legacy in good hands and contact Thorneycroft Solicitors to ensure your estate is looked after with care and consideration.
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