The Danger of Using Cheap Online Will Writing Services! Pay £20 now…… and your family may pay £1,000s later.

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.

Are You Named As An Executor in Someone’s Will? Learn from this man’s error that cost him £341,278………

A recent article from the Daily Telegraph revealed how a personal representative was left with a staggering Inheritance Tax (IHT) bill of £341,278 when he was administering a £1.2 million estate. Mr Harris misguidedly distributed the assets to the beneficiaries before all of the Inheritance Tax had been paid. He did this with the understanding that one beneficiary (who received the majority of the estate) would pay any Inheritance Tax that was still owed. However, this did not happen as the beneficiary left the country without paying, leaving Mr Harris to foot the bill.

In this case, Mr Harris was personally liable for paying any Inheritance Tax that was due on the estate, as he had taken on the financial and legal responsibility for the estate when he became the administrator in 2013. Mr Harris was appointed to distribute Mrs M’s estate by the court when she died without a Will.

When a Will has been left, a chosen Executor is stated and if they choose to accept the role, they will have this same financial and legal responsibility. Executors and administrators are by no means obliged to take on the responsibility. They have a choice of whether or not to accept the role, the right to seek advice from a professional, and can even ask a professional estate administrator to manage the estate on their behalf.

Mr Harris attempted to appeal his responsibility to pay the £341,278 owed to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on the grounds that he no longer holds the estate’s funds. Harris’ attempt was unsuccessful as Judge Nicholas Aleksander rejected the tax appeal.

This case highlights the lack of understanding amongst the public about what to do when someone dies and more specifically, the liability that is associated with administering an estate. Incorrectly distributing the assets or making mistakes whilst handling the estate can be of great consequence, as highlighted in Mr Harris’ case.

 

Over Half Of Retirees Concerned About The Cost Of Care

Recent research has revealed that more than half (57%) of retirees are concerned about the cost of elderly care and lack of funding.

However, according to Age Partnership, this is despite that fact that 85% are yet to factor the cost of care into their retirement plans, including 90% of respondents who were already retired.

The Whitepaper, which looked at British adults of all ages, questioned whether the UK is retirement ready, analysing industry research.

It found that the basic state pension of £122 per week falls short of the £208 average a retired person lives off. This indicates that each month, pensioners must find a further £340 to make up the shortfall.

This is particularly concerning when looking at the reliance placed on the state pension, with an average of 68% of respondents saying that they already do or will be relying on the State Pension to fund their retirement.

However, the expectation of using this as the main form of income in retirement decreases for younger age groups, with the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) Financial Lives Survey revealing that just 26% of respondents aged 45 – 54 anticipate that it will be their prime income source.

For those that are currently in retirement, the dependency becomes a lot more significant. The FCA survey found that for over half (56%) of retirees aged 85 and over, the State Pension is the main source of income.

WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT IF YOU DIE?

Please share this useful information.

Did you know………Facebook allows you to add a “legacy contact” who can take limited control of your account if you pass away? You also have the choice as to whether you would like your Facebook account permanently deleted or it can be memorialised, allowing family and friends to post messages of remembrance.

It takes moments to set up the above. On your facebook home page at the top right, click on settings, then choose manage your account. You will see the selection to nominate somebody as explained above.

Twitter says that in the event of a user death it will work with a person authorised to act on behalf of the estate, e.g. an executor or a verified immediate family member to shut down an account. They are likely to ask for i.d. and the death certificate.

 

Have you registered your Lasting Power of Attorney? You may be entitled to a partial refund from the OPG…

Why did applicants pay too much?

People were charged more than was necessary by the Office of the Public Guardian, to apply to register a lasting or enduring Power of Attorney, between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2017.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) sets the Office of the Public Guardian’s (OPG) fees and the Power of Attorney cost was set at £110.

However, during the four-year period highlighted, OPG’s operating costs came down as more applied to register a Power of Attorney. However, the application fee wasn’t reduced in line with this.

It was only from 1 April 2017 that the fee came down to £82.

The MoJ explains that OPG should not be making a profit or loss on the fees – the fees should cover the cost of delivering the service only, which can vary from year-to-year depending on the number of applications received.

How much can you claim?

The OPG will run the refund scheme:

  • £54 if the fee was paid between April and September 2013
  • £34 if the fee was paid between October 2013 and March 2014
  • £37 if the fee was paid between April 2014 to March 2015
  • £38 if the fee was paid between April 2015 and March 2016
  • £45 if the fee was paid between April 2016 to March 2017.

Claims will also include 0.5% interest. If you paid a reduced – ‘remission’ fee, you will get half the refund amount.

How to claim a refund

It will take around 10 minutes to apply online for the Power of Attorney refund (have your bank account and sort code to hand, though you will need to claim by phone (on 0300 456 0300) if the donor doesn’t have a UK bank account, the donor has died or you’re a court-appointed deputy.

It can take up to 12 weeks for your claim to be processed and if it is approved, the refund will be paid to the donor’s bank account. If it is rejected, you can appeal by contacting the refunds helpline.

If this affects you and you need advice, call Liane at Western Wills today.