This website is being amended but please read on. About Cheap Wills
As you may have recently read in the press, Barclays is being sued by a customer’s daughter who claims that a botched Will drawn up by the bank deprived her of a stake in her late father's London home; a case that clearly underlines a wider problem with low-cost Wills.
Although Barclays is contesting the claim, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) found the bank to be at fault, and ordered them to pay "a fair and reasonable settlement", which Barclays decided to ignore resulting in the matter being referred to the High Court.
In a bit more detail, the client used Barclays' £90 Will-writing service to draft a Will dealing with his various assets including his homes both overseas and in London. His Will provided that upon his death half of his London home should pass to his daughter; however, as the property was owned as joint tenants with his wife, who incidentally was the daughter’s step-mother, the property passed to her and not as he had intended in his Will.
What should have happened is that the Will writer should have severed the tenancy via a notice of severance, registered it at HM Land Registry, and drafted the Will to include the appropriate life interest clauses granting his wife a right to reside but passing the beneficial ownership to his daughter; all of which is pretty standard stuff. As an aside, but not part of the action, the Will writer should have also provided lasting powers of attorney so as to ensure that the now two separate owners had the power to speak and act on each other’s behalf if one was physically or mentally unable to do so, as being tenants-in-common both signatures would be required.
As all of that failed to happen, the problem is that the client’s widow is now the outright owner and the Ombudsman rightly concluded that: "The half-share in the property in London cannot be gifted to the client’s daughter in accordance with his wishes, and that there is no subsequent right for this to be contested with the co-owner in a court of law. In order to resolve the complaint, we would usually ask the bank to put the consumer back in the position they would have been had the correct steps had been taken in the first instance. Unfortunately, the share in the property is incapable of being gifted now, and therefore ask Barclays to come up with a settlement that would fairly and reasonably resolve the complaint, taking into consideration the value of the property and the intended gift."
So what is the moral of the story? Simply put, you only get what you pay for and bucket-shop Will writers do neither you nor your clients any favours as they are highly unlikely to be able to offer the kind of comprehensive advice-based service that you and your clients deserve. Moreover in this litigious age, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a poor advised client could sue you for recommending a sub-standard performer in the first place.
Strong words I know, and there are very many good value Will writers and solicitors out there who do a thoroughly first-class job; but please be careful and only use those firms who can provide references, give you a copy of their PI and can demonstrate that they know what they are doing by not assuming that the client is in position to know what it is they actually need or want.