The message of the importance of making a will is one of the most frequently repeated pieces of advice given to anyone who is concerned about planning for their future and looking after their family interests, but according to Wills & Probate Solicitor and Watson Ramsbottom Director Patrick Swanney, the message should also be accompanied with the advice of only using a qualified and regulated solicitor to advise you and prepare your will correctly.

In a case reported recently (the article can be seen here in the Daily Telegraph) a woman is taking legal action against Barclays as a result of problems caused by the bank’s low cost will writing service used by her late father. In investigating the case, the Financial Ombudsman found that the Barclays will writing service had omitted what should be a simple formality in the will writing process in relation to the severance of a joint tenancy agreement. The consequences of this ‘formality’ being omitted resulted in the woman not receiving the half share of the London property owned by her late father in accordance with his wishes, a matter of several hundred thousand pounds.

“The problem goes much deeper though’ comments Patrick Swanney ‘certainly beyond the issue of Barclays will writing missing a simple formality and that is the matter of regulation. Barclays and other organisations are able to offer will writing services which are unregulated. In this case where the ombudsman has investigated and found Barclays to be clearly at fault, and recommended a commensurate level of compensation be paid to the intended beneficiary, Barclays have declined to do so because they say their will writing services are not bound by regulation. People may decide to use these services on the basis of a possibly marginal lower cost and putting trust in a brand name, but in reality the lack of regulation of their will writing is a very significant and potentially costly risk as this case shows. ”

“One of the constant and biggest challenges we face as qualified and regulated wills & probate solicitors is the ongoing need to remind people to make a will. It is deeply disappointing to see example of this nature whereby someone has tried to organise their affairs and been let down so dramatically because these unregulated practices are allowed to continue

My advice for anyone looking to make a will is to ask three key questions of the organisation or service they intend to use:

  1. Are you a firm of solicitors regulated by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority)?
  2. Do you have a specialist department for Wills & Probate?
  3. Do you conform to the STEP Will Writing Code and have accredited STEP members in your firm?

For further information and advice on making a will, please contact Patrick Swanney on 01254 67 22 22 or complete our online contact form.

Watson Ramsbottom provide a free estate planning report service for our clients – click here to find out more.