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BBC Panorama programme: The Final Rip Off

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Solicitors or Will Writers – What is the Difference?

Response to the BBC Panorama programme: The Final Rip Off

The BBC’s “Panorama” programme, aired on 9 August 2010, revealed disturbing evidence of cases of mis-selling, confusion and fraud from the UK will writing industry. Watch Panorama: The Final RIP Off on iPlayer.

The will writing industry now accounts for 10% of the UK’s will market. The BBC investigation claimed that will writing services are taking thousands of pounds from customers and their loved ones. Whilst will writers are often perceived as a cheaper, more straightforward option to a solicitor, the Panorama investigation showed that fees can quickly escalate with hidden charges and beneficiaries can be left with nothing.

Unlike solicitors and financial services companies, the will writing industry is not regulated in any way. The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority encourages transparent fee structures and insists that solicitors have insurance for claims against their firm, assuring clients of redress in the event of negligence or fraud; will writers are not required to do this. Furthermore, will writers do not need appropriate qualifications to sell will writing services. To emphasise this point, some solicitors use the anagram RIP in their marketing, standing for Regulated, Insured, Professional.

A last will and testament is one of the most important documents that a person will write in their lifetime. Two thirds of people in the UK do not have a current will, let alone one which accurately reflects their current wishes or their current financial and family circumstances.

Following the documentary, the Wills and Tax Partner at Frettens Solicitors in Christchurch, Lee Young, commented “Making a will is one of the most positive things you can do for your family’s future, giving certainty that your estate will be dealt with in accordance with your wishes. However, it is quite a complicated process and you are in the hands of your advisers.”

“The programme highlighted the ways in which people can be misled or confused and underlined that it is safer for a solicitor to write your will and administer your estate to ensure it is done completely properly. Solicitors give the correct advice to reflect a client’s domestic and financial situation and can also advise on the creation of trusts, transfers of assets and powers of attorney.”

Michelle Hayter, Litigation Partner at Frettens, added “The financial pitfalls of poorly drafted wills can be staggering. Often, problems only come to light after the person has died and the family and loved ones are left in disarray and without their full inheritance. I represent clients when wills are disputed or challenged, which often involves contesting or defending the validity of a will, and is sadly another lengthy and costly process for beneficiaries to endure.”

Frettens Solicitors offer a free review service to examine a will and explain any areas which may result in problems. Lee Young concludes “Any pre-existing will can be completely revoked by a subsequent document. It is highly advisable to have a solicitor examine your will and amend any issues. Most solicitors are not as expensive as you may expect; for example at Frettens we offer wills for £125 for individuals or £175 for a couple (plus VAT). My team are happy to meet with you at either of our offices for a free review of your will, or at your home if required. Call 01202 499255 to arrange a free appointment.”

Frettens Solicitors offices in New Milton and Christchurch are full of enthusiastic people with personality and strong experience who provide a full range of specialised legal services to private and business clients. Visit www.frettens.co.uk for further information.

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