Unregulated Will Writers Can Make Fatal Mistakes
Wednesday 14 March 2012
Charles Neal, Partner and Head of the Wills and Probate Team at Bell & Buxton Solicitors, was recently asked to review an Enduring Power of Attorney which had been prepared by a firm of Will Writers, rather than by a firm of Solicitors.
The Enduring Power of Attorney turned out to be invalid as the signature of the Donor (the person making the Power) had been witnessed by one of the Attorneys and the Attorney Declaration had been signed by the Attorney’s spouse rather than by the Attorney himself. To make matters worse, the purported second Attorney had not signed the document at all.
These problems arose because the client didn’t understand the written instructions that were received from the Will Writers. In our view, it is unfair to expect a client, especially an elderly client, to understand the complexities of these types of legal documents without having an opportunity to have them clearly explained.
The main issue with Will Writers, is that they are usually comprised of unregulated organisations with staff who may, or in some cases may not, be trained in dealing with various aspects of Will writing and other elderly client issues. As they are unregulated, there is no governing body to whom they need to report or answer to. This leaves their clients extremely vulnerable when mistakes are made.
One of the many advantages of engaging a firm of Solicitors such as Bell & Buxton is that we insist on face to face contact with clients and if, for convenience, the client wishes to sign their own Will, Lasting Power of Attorney or other document without such a face to face meeting, we always require that document to be returned to us so that it can be checked for validity after it has been signed. Although not all Solicitors take this approach, it is considered to be best practice. However given the level of service which is often provided by the unregulated sector it is a prevalent problem for anyone who has had any Will Writer providing any legal documents for them.
Our advice to anyonewho has been to any non-Solicitor or has been approached by such in relation to any of these documents, is that they contact us immediately and we will, free of charge and without obligation, provide a review of those documents and advise the clients on whether or not they ought to take remedial action. As always, such things cannot be left. If a person were to die with an invalid Will there is very little which can be done, and similarly if a person were to lose mental capacity before it was discovered that there was a fatal flaw in their Enduring or Lasting Powers of Attorney it is too late to put this right.
For more information or to make an appointment please contact Charles Neal on 0114 2495969 or email firstname.lastname@example.org