‘A villain will steal £150,000 from my friend’

0
25

Anne Easton, 71, of Bridgnorth in Shropshire, was good friends with her neighbor John “Jack” Rhodes and often went to his house to cook for him and take him to hospital appointments.

It wasn’t until after he died in 2019 that she made the horrific discovery that he had been attacked by a rogue writer.

Shortly before his death, Mr Rhodes updated his will using the services of a will writer named Paul Hill and also took his services as an executor, leaving him solely responsible for the distribution of his estate, which is estimated at £150,000. was worth.

But Mr. Hill did not manage the estate. Despite Ms. Easton and another friend being named as beneficiaries, they still haven’t received a cent.

Since then, Ms Easton has been on the hunt for Mr. Hill, who has stopped responding to emails and letters from lawyers and has reportedly gone abroad. Kent Police are investigating.

Ms Easton said she and the other beneficiary were out of pocket for the sum of £25,000 in attorneys’ fees which were spent seeking Mr Hill and ensuring that he would fulfill his duties as an executor. They can now “no longer pay”.

Dawn Wilding, 52, who helped her in her search, said it was appalling to see how easily a vulnerable elderly person can be abused by a rogue state.

ALSO READ  Outrage over TBEN putting Women's Open wave highlights on 'graveyard shift'

“It’s ridiculous that writers aren’t regulated,” she said.

A will is arguably the most important legal document a person will sign in their lifetime. Yet in Britain there are no restrictions on who can prepare one.

Michael Culver of Solicitors for the Elderly, a trade association, said that because “anyone can make a will”, the number of suspicious companies in the sector had grown.

In a recent survey, the Legal Services Board, a regulator, found that wills and trusts were one of the most common practice areas of the 208,000 unregulated law firms currently operating in England and Wales.

Mr. Culver said his organization was “all too aware” of the “devastation” unregulated will writers could cause, as its lawyers were often approached by people affected.

Amanda Simmonds of law firm Lupton Fawcett said such companies have been around for years, but the increase in the writing of DIY articles during the pandemic “brought them forward”.

In 2020, the lockdown nearly tripled the number of people writing wills from home, according to Farewill, a will agency – the biggest spike was recorded the day Boris Johnson went into intensive care.

Ms Simmonds said many of these companies “recruit young people from call centers and release them to the public”.

ALSO READ  Garden chores in August: what to plant and clean up in your garden this month

While it is illegal to impersonate a lawyer, there is nothing stopping someone from setting up a business and calling their business a law firm or legal services provider. But a survey of 2,000 adults conducted by IRN Research in 2020 found that half of people believed that “all will writers are regulated.”

Mark Pearce, 66, of Newport in Shropshire, assumed he was dealing with a skilled law firm when he paid KPD Estate Planning £3,500 for a will, a durable power of attorney and lifetime trust documents in 2019.

He got nothing but a draft will that was full of errors. “I made a claim through the bank and got £1,500 back,” he said. “But I’m still £2,000 out of pocket.”

If a will writer is a member of a professional body such as the Society of Will Writers, they must have liability insurance, which means clients can have recourse if something goes wrong. But rogues probably won’t have this cover.

Even if they do, Mr. Culver said, it can only cover the cost of the service. So, for example, someone can reclaim £3,000, but not, say, the thousands of pounds lost due to an unexpected tax charge.

This can be another serious consequence of writing unregulated wills: Without the legal education that would give them an understanding of tax planning, companies will “shoe horn in the air” on clients to a very basic will that doesn’t account for tax. said Mrs Simmonds.

ALSO READ  Nine in ten Bank of England employees gave bonuses as inflation rises

A number of lawyers told Telegraph Money that they had met clients who had to pay IHT bills of up to £50,000 for using a will writer with insufficient legal training.

Despite its recent findings on the size of the unregulated market and mounting evidence of the harm such companies are doing, the Legal Services Board has decided not to conduct a regulatory assessment of the industry. surprise.” “It is yet another example of the lack of interest in protecting the needs of vulnerable people,” he said.

In many countries, will writing is a reserved legal activity. Mr Culver said this should also be the case in the UK as such regulations would “require firms to demonstrate that their staff are qualified and have appropriate insurance”.

Mrs. Easton said she had given up hope of receiving money from Mr. Rhodes’ estate. But she said that wasn’t the point. “The saddest part is that Jack’s wishes have been ignored,” she said.

Telegraph Money contacted Paul Hill and KPD Estate Planning for comment but received no response.