Wednesday, 27 September 2023
STEP (the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners) has recently released an alarming report about the impact of unregulated legal services in relation to Wills & Trusts. In May 2023, they sent out a survey to STEP’s UK members regarding unregulated Will writing. Their report found that:
STEP’s report highlights the personal and emotional cost caused by flawed advice. Their report gives such an example where an elderly woman and her husband were badly advised about how to pass on their property and business. They set up unnecessarily complex legal structures after being incorrectly advised that this was necessary. The woman is now widowed, and lives in fear of her nephew. Their relationship broke down when he wrongly assumed that as a trustee of his aunt’s assets, he had control of them. He has keys to her home and feels entitled to treat it as his own.
Their report finds that some Will-writing firms prey on vulnerable clients where hidden costs can often be hidden away in terms and conditions. Some may not be apparent until after death, when families find themselves forced to use a specific company for the estate administration work at great cost.
The results of the survey clearly show the impact that badly written Wills and Trusts can have on families. In another independent poll, of the 51% surveyed that actually had a Will, 44% had chosen a cheap online Will or had written their own. Only 3% of those using an online Will provider had checked for qualifications.
Regulated legal professionals are required to:-
The Law Society of Scotland has recently submitted evidence on the need for enhanced consumer protection to an investigation into unregulated legal services by the Competition and Markets Authority. Kirsty Lang, Convener of the Law Society’s Consumer Law Committee, said “These unregulated services are a risky proposition for consumers if the service provider breaches consumer protection legislation….Some of the most vulnerable members of our society could be misled or mis-sold legal services from unregulated providers. Consumers may be attracted to the price or convenience, but it’s leaving them at risk of significant harm and personal distress.”
Here at Stevenson & Marshall we have dealt with countless instances where clients have previously used Will writers who have put in place defective Wills or unnecessary and costly Trust arrangements. The preparation of Wills and estate planning is one of the most important legal arrangements you can make. Make sure you get the right advice from a regulated solicitor with the requisite specialist skills and knowledge. With a team of appropriately qualified, regulated and experienced solicitors, we can help at Stevenson & Marshall.