Lawyers step up bid to stop shoddy will-writing
HULL lawyers have launch- ed a campaign against unscrupulous will-writers as evidence shows bereaved families are being left out of pocket by shoddy work.
The Hull Probate Practitioners' Group has compiled a catalogue of case studies which highlight the problems that can arise from not making a will, or from making one that is defective.
The group is now stepping up its efforts following the publication of new consumer protection proposals by the Legal Services Board during the summer.
Terry Moore, a partner at Burstalls Solicitors in Lowgate, Hull, and spokesman for the group, said errors can leave bereaved families out of pocket and can lead to disputes and further distress.
He said: "One will-writer ran a will storage business, claiming he kept the documents in a secure facility when, in fact, they were in his airing cupboard.
"We would say not all will- writers are unscrupulous, but there is no requirement for them to be qualified and they are not regulated by the Government.
"There is no protection against them going bankrupt and your will disappearing with them, and there is evidence of some writers charging to make changes to a will when there has been no need to amend anything."
Formed four years ago by law firms, the aim of Hull Probate Practitioners' Group was to improve the probate service with better training and liaison, and to highlight the risks facing individuals and business owners who may be tempted by persuasive but unqualified will-writers.
Mr Moore said action has been taken in the past against fraudulent will-writers but, by the time that happens, it is often too late to help the victims.
And he pointed out examples of wills being ruled invalid because they were not signed, did not have a date or were not witnessed properly.
He said: "In one case, the percentages of the estate to be divided between the beneficiaries of the will did not even add up to 100."
The Legal Services Board proposals are designed to raise standards in the regulated and unregulated sectors but found the worst sales practices, issues with the safe-keeping of wills and the sufficiency of redress options, appear to be largely confined to the unregulated sector.
Mr Moore said: "Law Society figures show 72 per cent of people do not have a will at all.
"Added to that, last year more than 15,500 wills were rejected by the High Court because they failed to appoint an executor, or because the executor was unable or unwilling to administer the estate.
"Where that happens, the estate may pass to the family, even if the deceased person couldn't stand their relatives.
"It is important to seek advice from a well-trained expert and that's what the Hull Probate Practitioners' Group offers."