According to the Legal Ombudsman’s recent ‘Complaints in Focus’ report, Wills & Probate is currently the third most complained about area of law, making up around 13% of the 8,000 complaints resolved by the Legal Ombudsman last year.
As this area of law often sees people using legal services during an emotional time in their lives (being terminally ill or having lost a loved one for example) the importance of getting things right, and of being sensitive to the circumstances could not be higher for service providers.
Data from the Chancery Division shows there were 368 claims lodged for breach of fiduciary duty in 2013, up from 107 on the previous 12 months. The claims range from theft of assets by the executor to fraudulent distribution of assets to favour certain beneficiaries of the will above others.
So why might this be the case? The Chairman of the Law Society’s wills and equity committee, Richard Roberts, said the risk of mismanagement increases as more and more people execute estate distribution themselves, saying; ”Many wrongly perceive the task to be simpler than it is” he said.
It’s evident that more people are asking Google ‘how to make a Will’, downloading free Will templates, or employing unqualified, unregulated, and uninsured people to draft these vital documents for them.
Our Will solicitors have outlined some issues that can arise out of making your own Will, or employing a non-lawyer to write it for you.
The most common dispute we see arising from poorly drafted Wills or trusts are between family members. Remember, if you write your own Will you run the risk of family members misinterpreting your final wishes and your estate being distributed incorrectly. We have also seen cases where home-made wills have split the estate into percentages but there have been errors in calculation, meaning the entire estate is not disposed of. Ultimately, misinterpretations can lead to disagreements.
It’s also the case that where alternative dispute resolution techniques fail to resolve such conflicts they can escalate into civil litigation cases in the family court, which can be extremely expensive and drawn-out.
At Else we charge just £200+vat for a single Will and £350+vat for a pair of Wills for a couple where matters are straightforward. This is a small price to pay when you realise a dispute resolution solicitor’s hourly rate can be as much as £250+vat per hour and the costs of litigation can easily run into tens of thousands of pounds.
Finally, although it is legal for non-lawyer Will-writers to practice (and there are some very experienced professionals out there if you research properly), ultimately they are not subject to the same regulations as Will solicitors and may not be covered by appropriate professional indemnity insurance.
While these are preferable to the ‘home-made’ Wills that are becoming more regular, we would advise ensuring that whoever writes your Will is subject to proper regulatory scrutiny and appropriate experience.
If you would like to discuss a matter with one of our Will solicitors please call 01283 526200. Alternatively, you can send us a message and we will get in touch at a time that suits you.