Terese Kingman looks into the murky world of unregulated will writers
Walter Ventriglia was the owner of a will writing firm called Legacy & Law and a will storage business called UK Will Register. He has just been sent to prison for fraudulently charging clients for fixing non-existing problems with their wills.
Is he typical?
That is not an easy question to answer but you must be on your guard against unregulated Will writing firms who cold-call by telephone, particularly if people who have subscribed to the Telephone Preference Service.
What should i do if i receive a telephone call from one of these firms offering to make a will at what seems to be a reasonable price?
You should be aware that the Wills drawn up by these companies are rarely drawn up by qualified staff and the Wills are unlikely to be supervised by qualified staff. There are often a lot of hidden charges with these types of companies. A firm rang me recently telling me they wanted the opportunity to make my Will. They told me they would store it for me afterwards for a fee of £5 per month. Most solicitors are happy to look after your Will for you free of charge.
Why are wills produced by these unregulated firms questionable?
A large number of Wills produced by unqualified Will writing firms are inadequate because they fail to take into account certain outcomes or account for an estate fully. They often do not meet the testator’s specific requests because of conflicting clauses, some of the actions in the Will are potentially illegal, some of the content is contradictory and sometimes the bequests are described in insufficient detail.
A common theme with these Wills is that precedents have been cut and pasted from computer software packages without having the requisite legal knowledge to understand that the final package will not work as intended.
If you are telephoned by one of these firms the safest thing you can do is to hang up.
Are the charges raised by these non-qualified firms significantly less than a solicitors?
No they are not. Most solicitors will give you an estimated cost of the Will and discuss its implications with you fully.
Are all firms offering will writing services who say they are solicitors actually solicitors?
By visiting the Law Society’s website (www.lawsociety.org.uk) you can see if the firm is authorised by the Law Society to be in private practice. This means that there will be members of that firm supervising your Will who have current practising certificates and that that firm has a professional indemnity insurance policy. All three firms of solicitors practising in South Molton are on the Law Society’s list.