No one likes to think about dying. But once in a while, it’s well worth taking the pain by writing a will. But be careful – the wills sector is unregulated and some professional advisors are out to rip you off.
Millions of people die every year without having written a will. And in a small number of cases, where they have no family to speak of, all their money ends up in the hands of the government. If they’d just taken the time to draw up a will, they could have at least left their possessions to a friend or favoured charity.
Although writing a will is not a particularly complex process, it’s well worth seeking professional advice to ensure that it’s all legally watertight. The question is – who do you turn to?
Stay away from dodgy will advisors
Earlier this week, Panorama turned its spotlight on the independent will-writing sector, highlighting a handful of rather dodgy cases where will advisers had defrauded clients to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. Worse still, this sector remains entirely unregulated, so there’s no immediate hope of such poor practice being stopped.
Back in April, we carried out our own research into the wills sector at Which? Money – uncovering some particularly worrying practices in the banking sector. If you go and see RBS/Natwest or HSBC to get your will drawn up, they’ll insist on writing themselves in as the executor, or joint executor.
What this means is that they’ll manage the execution of your will when you die. And for this privilege, RBS/Natwest will take up to 4% of your estate. For many families, this translates into a five-figure bill.
Where to turn for the best will writing
Our research found that solicitors tended to give the most reliable advice when it came to drawing up a will – and none of the ones we visited tried to write themselves in as an executor. Although solicitors were slightly more expensive upfront – around £133 vs £107 for an independent will writer – we think the extra cost is well worth it.
We, at Which?, also have a will writing service – and we, like many other independent will writers, would welcome full regulation of this sector. In the meantime, all independents are getting a bad name due to the poor practice of a small minority.