Jul 25, 2011

How to avoid a cowboy Will provider

The Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) issues 10 top tips on how to avoid a cowboy Will-writer.

Willpower Managing Director Paul Sharpe said, “Cowboy Will-providers, whether they are solicitors or Will-writers don’t wear a Stetson so it’s not easy to spot them, so its great that the IPW has issued a 10 point checklist to help anyone wishing to purchase a Will to wise up and to identify who is best placed to provide a Will-writing service for them and to protect themselves from falling prey to a cowboy. “

Top Tip 1

Understand the market. There are two sorts of providers in the market place – solicitors and Will-writers. All solicitors are regulated. Some Will-writers are regulated by the IPW through its Code of Practice which has been approved by the Office of Fair Trading, but Will-writers who are not members of the IPW will be subject to a weaker form regulation, or no regulation at all.

Top Tip 2

Check that your Will-provider knows what they are talking about. Will-writers are not the only people who can offer Wills without any qualifications in the subject. A solicitor can become qualified as a solicitor without studying Wills. Ask about qualifications and training and ask to see evidence of their expertise. If they refuse or are offended by your request – look elsewhere.

Top Tip 3

Check that your Will-provider has professional indemnity insurance. This insurance will compensate your beneficiaries if a mistake is made in your Will. It is mandatory for all solicitors to have this insurance and it is mandatory for all members of the IPW to have this cover.

Top Tip 4

Be suspicious of low cost Wills and special offers and prices quoted ‘from £x’ and prices quoted ‘for a basic Will’. If it looks too good to be true, then that is exactly what it will be. Some providers set their fees for Wills at temptingly low prices just to get you ‘on the hook’ and then sell you other services at unnecessarily high costs in order to make the transaction profitable. Others offer never ending, apparently discounted, special offers. If a Will costs less than £100 for a single person or £150 for a couple (excluding VAT), then it’s difficult to understand how money is being made, unless corners are being cut or money is being made elsewhere. Check if the prices quoted need to have VAT added to them.

Top Tip 5

Ask to see a price list of ALL the services provided by your Will-provider. These other services, such as Lasting Powers of Attorney and trusts may be to your advantage but some providers charge extortionate prices for these services because they are not part of the headline cost of making a Will. You need to understand what the full cost of the service to you could be because the cheapest Will may not be the cheapest solution for you.

Top Tip 6

Ask if you can change your mind without being liable for costs. If you see a Will-provider in your home, the law gives you a 7 day cooling off period, but you can waive this right. Be suspicious if your Will-provider asks you to waive this right unless you particularly need your Will completed urgently.

Top Tip 7

If you are asked to pay for any transaction before it is completed, find out what happens if your Will-provider fails to deliver the service, or it is delivered late or you are not happy with it. Any member of the IPW who collects a payment ‘up front’ has to be part of a scheme run by the IPW that will refund the payment or provide for the service to be completed by another member in these circumstances.

Top tip 8

Be aware that you do not have to appoint the Will-provider as the executor of your Will. Administering your estate may not be difficult so you can appoint family or friends. If they get into difficulties, they can always employ a professional to help them with some or all of the work – and agree fees with them accordingly.

Top Tip 9

NEVER pay a fee at the time of making your Will for someone to provide assistance after your death to administer your estate. There can be no guarantee that the firm that you pay the money to will still be in business when you die and therefore will be able to provide the service that you have paid for.

Top Tip 10

Find out what happens if things go wrong. A decent Will-provider should provide you with this information without you having to ask for it. If you choose a solicitor you can refer matters to the Legal Ombudsman and if you choose a member of the IPW you can refer matters to the Estate Planning Arbitration Scheme (EPAS). Both are completely independent.