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A recent report sheds light on the often opaque world of will-writing services, revealing a concerning trend of unqualified advisers springing unforeseen charges on clients. One couple, who initially spent £4,500 on their wills, found themselves stung by an annual storage fee of £89, a charge not transparently disclosed at the outset. Inspire Legal Group, a leading solicitor in North Yorkshire, can assist you with wills, trusts and probate.

The study, conducted by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), gathered responses from 329 members to assess the prevalence of undisclosed fees among will-writing companies. Over a third of the respondents recounted instances where clients were quoted an initial fee but were blindsided by additional charges later on.

In one particularly troubling case, a member reported a “significant storage fee, not explained or charged at the time, but requiring payment in order to obtain the original will.” This lack of transparency places clients in a vulnerable position, especially when time constraints often accompany the retrieval of essential documents.

The findings underscore the need for consumers to exercise caution when engaging will-writing services, as unqualified advisers sometimes lure clients in with seemingly low fees, only to tack on charges for various provisions, unnecessary probate trusts, and storage fees. What might have been pitched as a nominal fee can quickly escalate to an additional £3,000-£4,000.

While over two-thirds of respondents mentioned charging less than £500 for standard or uncomplicated wills, the deceptive practices of unqualified advisers remain a cause for concern. There are instances where false claims about care fees were made by more than half of respondents, and a third reported cases where incompetence resulted in significant tax bills.

One alarming case highlighted in the report involved a client not being informed that the creation of a lifetime trust would trigger an immediate inheritance tax charge of £22,000. The client passed away a year later, incurring an additional £45,000 in inheritance tax. Such oversights demonstrate the far-reaching consequences of inadequate estate planning advice.

These findings, featured in STEP’s response to the Competition and Market Authority’s will-writing investigation, underscore the urgent need for increased scrutiny and regulation within the estate planning sector. As consumers, it’s crucial to approach will-writing services with a discerning eye, seeking transparency in fees and qualifications to avoid falling victim to hidden charges that could substantially impact your financial wellbeing.

Natalie Foster – Owner

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