Consult a solicitor when making a will
PUBLISHED: 08:35 01 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:47 20 February 2013
Among the countless things we find to worry about during our lives, one of the most nagging is about what will happen to the wealth we have accumulated when we die. Jonathan Fry looks at the advantages and pitfalls of making a will
It is not only the super-rich who have cause to lose sleep as realisation of their mortality dawns. Anybody with their own house and a few quid in the bank should be concerned about what happens to all they have worked for when they die.
The answer, we are told, is to make a will. If it is properly crafted, such a document can help to alleviate the impact of or totally avoid paying Inheritance Tax, it can speed up the legal settlement of an estate and, most importantly, it can help to ensure that those you want to benefit from what you leave behind will do so.
This assumes that your will is properly and responsibly drawn up. Unfortunately, thats not always the case because the business of writing wills is totally unregulated. Anybody can do it.
And it is this lack of regulation that has seen charlatans and criminals set themselves up as wills practitioners with one aim - not to ensure that the proceeds of your estate go to the
people of your choosing, but all-too-often to themselves.
The problem was highlighted in a recent BBC Panorma expose of conmen, which told of several victims who were either charged exorbitant fees for making a will or, worse still, found that the proceeds of their estates were diverted into the coffers of the crooks.
The Legal Services Board (LSB), which overseas the regulation of solicitors and barristers who are authorised to undertake reserved legal activities, is carrying out a review to decide whether or not will writing should be classified as a reserved activity, meaning that only licensed practitioners, such as lawyers, can do it.
There are compelling reasons for the law to be changed in order to bring this hugely important area of financial and inheritance planning within the control of the regulator, whether it be the LSB through the Law Society or Bar Council, or even the Financial Services Authority, which overseas wealth preservation specialists such as myself, financial advisors and banks.
With regard to the writing of wills, there is some concern that regulation would lead to an increase in fees through the dismantling of the open market. However, the benefits of having a solicitor handle are that fees would have to be above board, that the detail of what is actually being bought is understood and that there are no hidden charges, that the will reflects the true wishes of the person making it and that there are no unfair commercial practices, such as pressure selling.
The good news for anybody thinking of making a will is that you dont have to wait for new legislation or regulation to be sure your estate is being properly administered; simply go to a bona-fide solicitor who offers the service and you are already covered.
North East Lifes financial columnist Jonathan Fry can be contacted at jonathanfry plc, Gallowfields House, Fairfield Way, Richmond, North Yorkshire. Telephone 01748 810299 or visit www.jfry.co.uk