Stephen Hill Comments on Confusion Over Will Writing

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Confusion over will writing leaves people vulnerable to final wishes being ignored, law firm warns

The results of a survey of 2,000 people conducted by Bolt Burdon Kemp to raise awareness about wills and will writing companies found:

  • Majority of people unaware that will writing companies are not regulated, do not have to be insured against the consequences of their mistakes and do not have to have any qualifications or training
  • Majority of people either assumed their will writer was insured, or just didn’t consider it
  • 74% of those surveyed admitted that if they had known will writing companies were unregulated and not required to carry insurance they would not have used them
  • Bolt Burdon Kemp, which carried out the survey, warn that failing to use a reputable will writing company means people are running the risk of their final wishes being ignored

The majority of people are in the dark over the rules and regulations governing will writers, a survey has found.

  1. Two thirds of people are not aware that will writing companies are not required to carry insurance against their mistakes, and are not required to have any training or qualifications.
  2. 59% did not know that will writers are not regulated.
  3. The majority (61%) of people surveyed admitted they either assumed their will writer was insured, or just didn’t consider it.

The professional negligence team at law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, which carried out the survey of 2,000 people, has warned that unawareness of will writing companies’ credentials risks leaving people with a badly written will which does not reflect their final wishes. Furthermore, if the will writer is not insured then there may be no one to pay compensation if something goes wrong.

The survey has revealed that 42% of people do not go to a solicitor to get their will prepared – with 19% preparing their will by themselves.

You can watch a film of people‘s reactions when they find out their will could be at risk.

Stephen Hill, Partner and Head of the Professional Negligence Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said:

“The fact that will writing companies are completely unregulated often comes as a shock to people, as this survey shows.

“It is important people have all the facts before they choose their will writer.  Solicitors are the only professionals offering regulated will writing services.  Whilst a solicitor may not necessarily be any better at writing wills than a will writer, solicitors must have extensive and ongoing legal training in order to practise. All solicitors are required to carry insurance of at least £2m to compensate people who lose out due to a mistake.

There are many reputable and reliable will writing companies out there, but people need to do their research and make sure they chose a company that is insured and whose will writers are properly trained. If people choose to instruct a will writer who is not a solicitor, they should only consider a firm that is a member of The Society of Will Writers, or the Institute of Professional Will Writers.

“Professional negligence claims relating to poorly written wills are not uncommon. While mistakes can be rectified when the person making the will is still alive, the error generally only becomes apparent once the person has died. At this point, many errors can’t be corrected, meaning that property or other legacies will not pass to the intended beneficiary.

“If the will writing company is not insured, then it may be impossible for someone who has lost out on their inheritance to recover the loss which has resulted from the will writer’s mistake.”

More than half of those surveyed admitted that if they had known will writing companies were unregulated and not required to carry insurance they would not have used them.

The survey also revealed that 40% of people believe that their estate will automatically pass to their spouse if they die, even if they did not have a will.

Although spouses are entitled to a share of the estate if their husband or wife dies, they will not automatically inherit everything – assuming this and neglecting to write a will may mean that your wishes are not reflected, argues Stephen.

“If an estate is worth less than £250,000 and there is no will then everything will transfer to the spouse automatically under the intestacy rules. However, if there is no will and a couple has children, the first £250,000 will go to the spouse, but the remainder will be divided – with half being split equally between the children, and the other half passing to the spouse.”

Top Tips for Ensuring your Will is Watertight

  1. When choosing a will writer, check their insurance cover. It is not only important to know they are insured, but also how much they are covered for in case something goes wrong.
  2. Another question to ask regarding insurance – does the will writer have “run off insurance cover” in case the firm closes? Solicitors must have six years cover from the date a firm closes. This can be important in wills cases where the claim can be many years after the will was negligently drafted.
  3. Check that the firm is a member of The Society of Will Writers, or the Institute of Professional Will Writers. If not then be very wary of instructing them.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask about the qualifications of the will writer. The more complex the estate, the more experienced they should be.
  5. Think carefully about what you want and prepare a clear written instruction.
  6. Keep a record of call correspondence with the will writer – in case anything goes wrong you will have a paper trail recording these calls.
  7. Always meet the will writer – this can help clear up any confusion if the estate is complex.
  8. Ask where the will is being kept and if there is there a fee. Some will writing companies may charge an additional fee to keep the will safe. Another option is to leave it with the Probate Service which costs £20.
  9. Review the will every 10 years. Situations can change and it is important your will reflects this – providing for grandchildren for example.

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