When I see clients, I always advise them to put relatives/close friends as executors if possible. This can potentially save the estate a lot in probate fees. Read the following article as published in the Daily Mail 12/09/18.
Dozens of internet firms offer cheap will-writing services that claim to save people time and money by cutting out solicitors. But budget DIY wills can include enormous hidden fees and extra charges.
Money Mail discovered that one firm, called Nine Minute Will, has included a clause in its terms and conditions that says its parent company MedEx Direct will be appointed as executors of a person’s estate if they use their website to create a will. This means that the company — rather than a trusted relative or friend — would be responsible for distributing someone’s estate after their death.
Crucially, MedEx Direct will charge 4 pc of the estate for carrying out its duties as executor — so a customer with a £500,000 estate would hand over £20,000.
The Society of Will Writers — a self-regulatory professional body of which Nine Minute Will’s directors are not members — describes the practice as ‘unethical’. Use of professional executors is generally advisable only when someone has no family or friends suitable to take on the role.
Professional executors can also be useful if someone has a complicated estate or where there is conflict between beneficiaries — although even then you should appoint them as joint executor, experts say.
Thomas Stansfield, marketing director of The Society of Will Writers, says: ‘Automatically appointing yourself as a professional executor and then referring to it in the small print is very misleading, and I would argue unethical.
‘Practices like this could have a negative impact on the profession, including those who do a great job in assisting people at a time of need.’
Mr Stansfield says his members typically charge 1.5 pc to 2 pc — less than half the fee at Nine Minute Will.
Chris Poulton, managing partner at probate firm Final Duties, says: ‘It is common practice for will-writing firms to encourage people to appoint themselves as a back-up executor or even primary executor, basically because it can increase their profits.
‘If you fill out a form online there will often be a tick box to name them as executor.
‘But it’s unusual to not give people the option. That is unprofessional, in my opinion. Even if it is in the terms and conditions, it might not be obvious and not everyone would realise the implications.’
On the homepage for Nine Minute Will it says ‘ we do not charge for being appointed executors’. The firm then refers customers to its terms and conditions.
Its huge fees for carrying out executor duties are then revealed more than 2,600 words into a 5,000 word document at point 11.2, where it is highlighted in bold font. Customers who take out wills with the firm must fill out a form online, during which they are asked twice to confirm they have read these terms and conditions.
These say: ‘The officer and staff of MedEx Direct Ltd will be specified as executors of your estate if you use our will writing services in the will you create. MedEx Direct Ltd will charge 4 pc of your estate for carrying out their duties as executors.’
Nine Minute Will, which also runs the website Safeandlegalwills.com, says it has been in operation for over 20 years.
The firm, which is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, charges £19.99 for a single will and £29.99 for a couple if they have similar intentions. This compares to a fee of around £ 150- plus if it is arranged through a solicitor. Steven Katz, director of Nine Minute Will, says that the firm lays out its charges, and the fact that it will be executor of your estate, in a draft will it sends customers and in the final document.
Mr Katz says that Nine Minute Will deals with very small estates that most solicitors would not touch.
He says: ‘A High Street solicitor will charge £250 to £500 to write a will, we charge £20. We take a commercial risk on it.
‘Our risk is that we may end up doing our work for zero or a few pounds. We look after the orphans and widows, we look after the people with little or no assets.’
Most of the hundreds of reviews on the Nine Minute Will website give it glowing reviews, highlighting its ‘streamlined service’ and ‘ cheap prices’. Others describe receiving M&S vouchers as a perk for signing up.
Money Mail contacted several other will writing websites, none of which forced customers to name them as executor in return for drafting the will.
Beyond.life appointed itself as default executor when you filled out its form online and you had to untick a box to remove them.
After Money Mail got in touch, the firm changed its website so customers would no longer be automatically opted in.