Now the banks cash in on wills: 1.5 million families face losing billions

June 18, 2018

When I read this story over the weekend I was neither shocked nor surprised. I was however, a little sad. I have been saying for many years that when you’re offered a Will for as little as £75, you have to really stop and ask yourself this question. Why would someone, that I probably don’t know, be so charitable as to give me something that is worth a whole lot more for so little? Reminds me of a saying I once heard, “If it sounds too good to be true….”


Now, before we get to the crux of this story let me firstly say that I have no idea whether the banks, or Will writing companies that may have acted on their behalf, did anything wrong. Perhaps they told their clients that they were appointing themselves as Executors. Maybe they were completely upfront about their fees and gave the information to their clients in a way which was easy to understand and not in the least bit confusing. There’s even a possibility that one of my eyebrows is not slightly raised as I’m writing this paragraph.


But this is no joke, it’s a very serious problem and the consequences need to be considered.


The first question is why would anyone, a professional, someone that is an expert in their field, and that field being estate law, travel to visit you, spend a significant amount of time with you, say at least an hour perhaps more giving you appropriate advice, then travel back, decipher the notes of your meeting, send a copy of those notes to you to make sure everyone is on the same page, determine what you need, draft your Will, and then ensure that it has been appropriately executed (signed in accordance with the law) and then charge you peanuts? And if you don’t think £75 is peanuts read on. Or maybe they didn’t do any of that, which begs the question, what did you get for your £75? Probably not a good idea to answer that yet…..Either way, read on.


Your Will ought to contain instructions on what to with the important things in your life; your assets; your personal effects; you! Do you need a special clause for your digital assets? What even is a digital asset? More important, if you have children under the age of 18, who looks after them if you die when they are still minors? What happens if the person you have chosen to look after them dies?


Who do you choose as your Executor? (how topical!) How many Executors should you have? What if they die before you? What about your Trustees? What happens if they die before you? What about the gifts to your beneficiaries? What happens if any of the beneficiaries die before you, or within 30 days of your death? (Yes, that is significant) What if any of the gifts fail, how do you avoid partial intestacy? What happens if the only beneficiaries left are under 18 and cannot own property yet? What age do they inherit? What about the Inheritance Tax implications of all of the above?


Hey here’s a thought, what if you’ve been married before or have children from a previous relationship? Oh and don’t forget there may be someone you specifically want to disinherit.


Your head should be pounding just thinking about all this. My clients usually need a stiff drink, or at least a strong cup of tea, after discussing their Wills, and that’s because it is one of the most important documents they will ever write. All that for £75? If you’re one of the people the story refers to you’ve probably got a headache right now.


So, let’s talk about the Will writing company or bank naming themselves as Executor. Now there is nothing wrong with a professional being appointed as Executor. As a firm of Solicitors we act for many estates as Executors. Would I advise a client to appoint the firm as Executor? Of course not. I clearly outline what an Executor does, the sort of costs involved for appointing a professional Executor. I tell the client that if they have friends or loved ones they trust and feel are able to take on the responsibility, that they could ask them and they would act free of charge. They could ask a Solicitor to help them if they wanted to, but there is no obligation.


If, and only if, I am satisfied that my client has fully understood the costs involved with appointing a professional Executor, they have considered if there is anyone within their circle of family or friends that could act free of charge, and the client still asks the firm to act, would I then appoint the firm in their Will.


By the way I checked the cost of peanuts.


Q: Do you know how many 1kg bags of KP dry roast peanuts you can get for £75?

A: 5 (yep) source….


This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.


Nino Cuffaro

Penn Chambers Solicitors
0207 183 1485

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