25th Aug 2015

You get what you pay for

We all know that you get what you pay for. Some decisions can be made purely on price, if you are comparing two identical products or services. However, the danger of this approach when it comes to Wills is highlighted in a case about to be heard in the High Court in London.

The case concerns Wills prepared by Barclays. The cost of both Wills was £90. The clients, Mr and Mrs Arebesola, had various assets incuding a home in London and property abroad.

Mr Arebesola wanted to leave his half of his London home to his daughter. However, the Will Writer did not check how the property was owned. Because the property was owned by Mr and Mrs Aerbesola as “joint tenants”, Mr Arebesloa’s half share passed to his wife, who is his daughter’s step-mother, notwithstanding the wishes in his Will. What should have happened is that the property ownership should have been checked, and then changed, when the Wills were made. This is a simple and cheap process.

The bank was found to be at fault when the intial complaint was taken to the Financial Ombudsman. However, Barclays argued that techncially the Will Writing service is a separate, unregulated business and therefore not bound to pay compensation under the Ombudsman scheme. We have acted in many cases where Wills have been prepared by companies that are not regulated and not insured. This means where an issue arises, disappointed beneficairies have no option but to go to Court which is stressful, time consuming and very expensive.

The case highlights the danger of cheap Wills which are often too simple and do not accurately reflect the wishes of the client or their circumstances. There has been a 700% increase in challenges to Wills over the last 5 years; preparing Wills online or on the cheap will be part of this increase, as without a proper meeting full details are often missed and you cannot spot signs that someone may be struggling with capacity or pressure from a family member.

Another massive problem with cheap Wills is that those who offer these services often recover the losses they make on preparing the cheap Wills by appointing themselves as Executors to obtain fees following death. It is often not necessary to appoint professional Executors and if any service provider insists that you appoint them as Executors you should proceed with extreme caution, or consider shopping around.

Making a Will is not a tick box exercise. It involves detailed consideration of a person’s assets and family situation, which takes time and expertise. Anyone with the skills, training and insurance required cannot do it for £90. You should expect to pay properly for Wills; the consequences of doing it on the cheap may cost your family dearly.

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