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Will writers confusion leaves consumers vulnerable, law firm warns

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

Research issued by law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp has revealed two thirds of consumers are unaware will writing companies aren’t required to carry insurance against their own mistakes, or have any training or qualifications.

The findings indicate 59 per cent were unaware will writers aren’t regulated, with 61 per cent admitting they either assumed their will writer was, or simply didn’t consider it. Half of those who have used a will writing service say they would not have done so had they known.

The firm’s professional negligence team are concerned at this widespread lack of awareness, as 42 per cent of people do not use the services of a solicitor to prepare their will – meaning almost half of all wills may not reflect the actual wishes of the holder, and holders have no recourse for compensation if their will is written erroneously.

Stephen Hill, head of professional negligence at Bolt Burdon Kemp, has prepared a nine point checklist for ensuring a will is sound.

  • 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.
  • 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 cases where the claim can be made many years after a will was negligently drafted.
  • Check 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.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask about the qualifications of the will writer. The more complex the estate, the more experienced they should be.
  • Think carefully about what you want and prepare clear written instructions.
  • Keep a record of all correspondences with the will writer – in case anything goes wrong you will have a paper trail recording these calls.
  • Always meet the will writer – this can help clear up any confusion if the estate is complex.
  • Ask where the will is being kept, and whether there is a fee. Some will writers may charge an additional fee to keep the will safe. Another option is to leave it with the Probate Service (which costs £20).
  • Review wills every 10 years. Situations can change, and it is important your will reflects this – providing for grandchildren for example.

“It is important people have all the facts before they choose their will writer – solicitors are the only professionals offering regulated will writing services, and are required to carry insurance of at least £2m to compensate people who lose out due to a mistake,” says Hill.

“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 property or other legacies will not pass to the intended beneficiary.”

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