Wills and probate solicitors at Coles Miller LLP are urging people to beware of door-to-door will writers after a Poole couple were charged 16 times the normal rate for two wills.
The Branksome couple are locked into a five-year contract that will cost them £3,200 over five years after signing up for two wills offered by an unregulated door-to-door salesman.
The couple only discovered the true cost of the contract they had signed with the salesman after getting proper advice from Coles Miller’s expert wills, trusts and probate team.
Coles Miller’s legally qualified wills and probate solicitors could have written them two wills for as little as £100 each.
Instead the couple were charged an upfront payment of £150 by the unregulated wills company - and then 60 monthly payments of £51.35. That is £3,231 in total.
They had been lured by the unregulated company’s offer of unlimited updates to their wills, executor support services and storage of their wills in fireproof vaults.
But they could have had all those services from the qualified and legally regulated team at Coles Miller for a fraction of the price they were charged by the door-to-door salesman.
Coles Miller Wills and Probate Associate Anthony Weber described what had happened to the couple as “crazy” and “exploitative”.
Paying a monthly fee for unlimited updates to a will was completely unnecessary: “Most people need to change their wills only every 10 or 15 years.
“We recommend reviewing wills every five or 10 years unless there has been a significant change in personal or financial circumstances,” he added, pointing out that Coles Miller will always offer both existing and prospective wills clients a free 30-minute interview to see whether any update is necessary.
The Branksome case highlights growing concern about the activities of unregulated will writers and their impact on consumers.
But in May, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling decided against a recommendation that will writing services should be regulated.
Last February’s recommendation had come from regulator the Legal Services Board, the independent body responsible for overseeing the regulation of lawyers in England and Wales.
LSB officials recommended regulation of wills, estate administration and also power of attorney.
Their recommendation was supported by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which regulates solicitors in England and Wales.
But the Ministry of Justice did not believe that making will writing a reserved legal activity was the best answer to the problems in the sector.
The ministry’s decision was criticised by the consumer watchdog the Legal Services Consumer Panel, an independent arm of the LSB.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel described the ministry’s decision as “terrible news for consumers”.
It made “no sense given the sheer weight of evidence of consumer detriment and the wide consensus backing regulation.”
Supporters of regulation say there is no substitute for a will that has been properly drafted by a legally qualified solicitor - rather than an unqualified, unregulated will writer.
Coles Miller operates a large wills and probate team and has five offices in Dorset: Bournemouth, Broadstone, Charminster, Poole and Wimborne.
The 110-strong firm has 10 Wills, Tax and Trusts solicitors and chartered legal executives.
The team comprises two Partners, two Associates, two Solicitors, two Probate Executives and two Chartered Legal Executives.
Services offered by the team include making a will, probate and administration, disputed wills and claims under the Inheritance Act.
Coles Miller can also help with Inheritance Tax planning, property trust wills and trust creation and administration.
As Britain’s elderly population increases, Coles Miller can advise on advanced medical decisions (living wills).
They can also help families to plan for the care of elderly relatives with advice on how to set up a power of attorney.
Coles Miller has been supporting the Lewis-Manning Hospice Make a Will Fortnight.
As part of this, there is a suggested minimum donation of £75 for a single will and £110 for a pair of mirror wills with 100 per cent of all donations going directly to the Lewis-Manning Hospice in Poole, Dorset.
Coles Miller solicitors carry out work in the voluntary sector, assisting in the setting up and registering of charities.
For further information about wills and probate, please contact Coles Miller Solicitors Associate Anthony Weber, 01202 673011.