Fraudulent Will Writer, Lasting Power of Attorney, Probate, Wills

Why should I use a Solicitor?

The ageing population means that there is a large and increasing market for legal services for elderly people.  Services in which elderly people are often interested are:-

  • Wills
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Concerns about costs of residential/nursing care
  • Equity Release
  • Advice regarding dementia/mental incapacity

Individuals are free to obtain legal advice from wherever they choose.   The advice could be from a Solicitor, or it could be from another organisation such as a financial adviser or a will writer.

Why use a solicitor rather than anyone else? 

  • Solicitors have undergone lengthy training,  probably six years between leaving school and qualifying.
  • Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which provides strict controls on the way Solicitors practice to ensure that the public are protected.
  • If a Will or other document is stored at a Solicitors’ practice then the document will be kept safe, and if the Solicitor goes out of business the documents will pass on to a successor practice.  The Law Society will be able to advise where the documents are held.
  • Solicitors are insured.  If anything goes wrong the Solicitor’s insurance will cover the costs of putting it right.
  • Solicitors have to keep client’s money separate from their own money.
  • Some unregulated Will writing companies are “here today gone tomorrow” organisations. Be wary of letting them store valuable documents for you.

Fees – Solicitors are required to be up front about the fees that they will charge.

You should be wary of organisations which:-

  1. Ask for significant amounts of money up front without specifying what it is to be used for.
  2. Offer an initial Will for a very low price coupled with a home visit.  Clearly the organisation will have to sell other  products or services to you to keep in business.
  3. Some organisations ask for significant money on account of “probate fees”.  A bit like a pre-paid funeral.  Be very cautious of such requests.

When obtaining advice of this nature, always obtain advice from a Solicitor, preferably one who has been recommended to you.

Otherwise, take a look at the website www.sfe.legal.com which represents Solicitors for the Elderly. This is a group of Solicitors all of whom specialise in providing legal advice for the elderly.  Members of the Elderly Client department at Morrish Solicitors are members of Solicitors for the Elderly, and Tom Morrish is Regional Co-ordinator for the Yorkshire region.

Telephone Tom Morrish on 033 3344 9609 for further assistance or visit our website.

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Inheritance tax, Lasting Power of Attorney, Uncategorized, Wills

Getting your house in order for the future – whatever that brings

When you die, you’re dead and you’ve got nothing to worry about (unless you believe in heaven and hell) – right? Either way, what about the people or organisations you want to benefit from your estate? Whether you believe in life after death or not, it is better to get organised now. This will be a weight off your mind because you know that after you die, the people who matter to you won’t miss out or find themselves in a complicated situation that you could have saved them from. It can also reassure your significant others if they know they will be doing what you would have wanted, and it can help avoid disagreements and claims against your estate after you’re gone.

And never mind dying, what if you become mentally incapable and can’t deal with your own affairs? Who will sort things out for you then?

So here are some top tips to get your affairs straight for starters:

  • Review and update your Will regularly to ensure changing family needs will be appropriately dealt with on your death.

 

  • Make a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs to ensure your assets can be managed without delay in the event of a loss of mental capacity (or if you are physically unable to manage) and encourage other family members to do the same.

 

  • Make a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare so your attorneys can advise doctors on resuscitation and life sustaining treatment, and health and social care professionals on how you want to be cared for.

 

  • Make the most of available lifetime giving allowances to help your family and friends, and minimise inheritance tax on your death.

 

  • Check the title deeds of your home and other properties you own and deal with any irregularities in ownership.

 

  • Prepare a detailed list of personal belongings and put in writing who you want to receive them on your death to prevent arguments.

 

  • Keep a private note of any passwords and usernames required for managing your assets online with your Will and Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs.

 

For more advice on any of these courses of action, the Morrish Elderly Client team are here to help.

Call Kiranjeet or Christina at our Pudsey office on 0333 3449606.

Call Monika or Tom at our Yeadon office on 0333 3449609.

 

Living Wills, Wills

Where is your will?

When making a Will it is important to know where the original document is kept.

If a Solicitor has made your Will you may have been given the option to leave the original Will with your solicitor for safekeeping in their deed store department. If this is the case then you will most probably have received a copy of your Will and will have peace of mind that your original is Will is safe.

If a Will has been made some years ago maybe through your Bank, the Bank may have stored your original Will. You may have been issued with a receipt with a storage number and address where you can request the original documents from if needed. Once again your Will will be safe and you should have a copy.

In either of these cases what happens if:

Your firm of solicitors has closed
Your solicitors have been taken over by another firm and moved their offices
Your bank has amalgamated with another bank (this has happened in recent years)
The local branch of your bank has closed
Ideally you, as the client of either the solicitors firm or the bank should have been notified in writing of the changes which have taken place and be advised as to where your original Will is being stored.

We do not live in an ideal world unfortunately and often notification will not always be provided.

Therefore it is beneficial to ensure that you keep regular contact (maybe every year or two) with the business who is holding your Will. This will provide confirmation that they are still in existence and your original Will is safe.

To make enquiries about the whereabouts of the documents held by a firm of solicitors who have closed or moved their offices, it is beneficial to contact the Law Society who may hold the records of where the documents are or who took over the firm of solicitors. If this is not possible enquiries can also be made with other firms of solicitors who have offices in the local area as these may be questions often asked of them in the past or they have knowledge of the local area.

The banks may be more straightforward as they should have retained records as to where the Wills originally stored with them are held and it may be that they have outsourced to another company or a firm of solicitors.

Knowing the location of your Original Wills is important because if a Grant of Probate is required after death the original Will is needed. If the Will cannot be located and only a copy is held, there are many additional procedures which have to be followed to submit an application for a Grant of Probate of a copy of a Will. This can often be costly.

Even if a Grant of Probate is not required in the deceased’s estate, it is beneficial to ensure that you know where the original Will is. At this time only the Executors can request the original Will with a death certificate. The Original Will may never be needed again but if there is ever a claim to pursue on behalf of the deceased’s estate eg – medical negligence or a challenge to the payment of care home fees a Grant of Probate may be requested to permit the claim to proceed to settlement.

Therefore if one spouse has died, and a Grant of Probate is not required, the surviving spouse is advised to keep the Original Will with their own Will as it may be needed for such a claim, or to show who benefited from the deceased’s estate (for inheritance tax purposes).

If a parent or elderly relative has been in a care home and has privately funded their own care for several years, it may be once enquiries have been made that they were eligible for funding from the NHS. (There are specialist firms who undertake such claims). The original Will will be needed to apply for a Grant of Probate, even if the Will was made many years ago, if it was the original last Will made by the deceased relative it will still be valid.

Once again the knowledge of the location of the Original Will is essential.

Inheritance tax, Living Wills, Uncategorized, Wills

New Year…make a Will

Happy New Year!

Welcome to our first Blog of 2016. In the new year, many people like to make a fresh start or may even make a resolution. So now may be a good time to give some serious thought to making a Will?

A Will is the only way to ensure your loved ones inherit what you want them to have. A Will also prevents your estate being distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules. Depending on who survives you, the intestacy rules could result in an estranged relative inheriting your estate. A Will gives you peace of mind knowing that the intended recipient receives your estate.

Appointing Executors of your Will is also an important decision. Executors are the people who are responsible for dealing with your estate assets when you die. You can appoint anybody as an Executor. Most people tend to appoint family members, although some prefer to have a professional, like a Solicitor.

A Will also allows you to appoint Guardians if you have young children and stipulate that money should be held in trust for your children, if necessary.

A Will may also allow you to mitigate inheritance tax and therefore it is important that you discuss this issue with a professional. Putting it off can result in your estate being liable to a large amount of tax. Taking advice from a solicitor is a sensible step.

Above all, making a Will gives you peace of mind. Why wait? Give Morrish Solicitors a call today on 033 3344 9600 and ask to speak to James Shingleton or Charlotte Bandawe at our Pudsey office or Tom Morrish or Monika Volsing at our Yeadon office.

Best wishes for 2016!

Fraudulent Will Writer, Probate, Wills

14 months jail for Will-writing fraudster

The Law Society’s Law Gazette magazine this week reported a story of an unregulated Will-writer who was jailed for fraudulently charging more than 125 clients between £30 and £60 to ‘fix’ a non-existent problem with their Wills.

Walter Ventriglia, 47, of Berkshire, ran a company called ‘Legacy & Law’ as a will-writing firm. According to the report, he wrote to clients under the alias Tony Edwards to advise them that under changes to the law their Wills would become invalid unless they hired him to make the necessary amendments. Needless to say, no such changes to the laws had been made.

Ventriglia also ran what he alleged was a Will-storage company, claiming the documents were stored in a secure facility in London where in fact he kept them at his home, in an airing cupboard.

Reading Crown Court sentensed Ventriglia on 19 August after he pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading under Section 9 of the Fraud Act 2006.

For the full report by Jonathon Rayner, please see the Law Society’s report.

For further information on Wills, please see our website www.morrishsolicitors.com or you can contact our Elderly Client Services team on 0113 250 7792.

Wills

1000 Will-related files found dumped on pavement

From The Law Society Gazette

Thursday 04 August 2011 by Jonathan Rayner

More than 1,000 files containing wills and other confidential information were recently found dumped on the pavement outside a will-writing company in Doncaster, the Society of Will Writers (SWW) revealed this week.

The files were left by staff at another will-writing company, Gainsborough-based Minster Legal Services (MLS), which ceased trading in March on the death of its sole director, solicitor David Hodgson, in February.

The Doncaster company, Express Law, contacted SWW on finding the documents, which then collected them for safe keeping. SWW has so far succeeded in returning 300 of the documents to clients.

SWW director general Brian McMillan said the society has since discovered that MLS had a national network of consultants targeting local charity groups, particularly the elderly, and clients had paid thousands of pounds for wills and trusts that they have never received.

He said the case highlighted the need for will-writers and will-writing companies to be licensed.

‘Four or five years ago, we had to rescue other files that had been abandoned in a barn in Somerset. People pay good money in the belief they are going to receive a valid will. Operators like this taint us all,’ he said.

A Solicitors Regulation Authority spokesman said that MLS was not regulated by it, as it was not a solicitors’ firm. He added that the SRA had placed conditions on Hodgson’s practising certificate in September last year.

Last month, the Legal Services Board announced that it would launch a formal investigation into whether will-writing should be regulated, following a recommendation by the Legal Services Consumer Panel.

Further proof, if any were needed, of the need to regulate the writing of Wills.

 

Court of Protection, Disputed Will, heir, Inherit, Inheritance tax, Legacy, Power of Attorney, Probate, Wills

Chief Ombudsman says thousands ‘ripped off’ by unregulated will writers

From the BBC’s website 18 July 2011Last updated at 02:33

Thousands of people are being ripped off by companies providing unregulated services such as will writing, claims the first Legal Ombudsman.

In his first report, Chief Ombudsman for England and Wales Adam Sampson said the most complaints he saw concerned conveyancing, family law and wills.

He called for action to be taken to ensure consumers were not left vulnerable by unregulated services.

Only a tiny fraction of legal services must be provided by a qualified lawyer.

Many others including will writing, divorce, employment and immigration can be done by unqualified and unregulated individuals and organisations.

“One service which crops up a lot is will writing. It’s a service carried out often by will-writing firms who aren’t regulated,” said Mr Sampson.

“Because of this, customers are left with little means of redress when things go wrong.

“We’ve seen similar confusion about claims management companies, with lots of consumers believing they’re getting a legal service even though most of the work is carried out by a non-authorised person. Again, we can’t help.”

‘Unregulated cowboys’The legal ombudsman was appointed in October 2010 and can only act on complaints from those using the services of qualified lawyers.

Consumer organisation Which? and the Law Society have backed the ombudsman and called for more protection for customers.

They said bundling legal services with financial services, including those offered via the internet, had posed serious dangers for consumer protection.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “As the legal-services market continues to grow in both size and complexity, it’s crucial that consumers who have paid for a legal service that’s not up to scratch know where to turn to get help.

“We want the government and regulators to wake up to the current lack of clarity and to provide a clear and straightforward route of redress for consumers.

“The arrival of a legal-services market in which consumers will, potentially, have complaints about hybrid services poses some serious questions about who they’ll be able to turn to for help.”

Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society for England and Wales, said: “The gap in regulation which allows unregulated cowboys to operate in areas like will writing does not just cause unfair competition to solicitors, who provide a regulated, professional service.

“It is also damaging to consumers because the unregulated providers are not insured, do not provide a compensation fund and are not covered by the Legal Ombudsman’s scheme for consumer redress.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said will writing was an important issue and that it welcomed the report.

She added the department will await the outcome of the Legal Service Board’s ongoing work.

Ends.

Want your Will handled by a professional, specialist solicitor? Please contact Tom Morrish or Charlotte Bandawe on 0113 250 7792 or Charles Clough, James Shingleton or Christina Fleming on 0113 224 8084.

Related stories:

The Law Gazette

The Legal Ombudsman’s Annual Report