It has emerged that many people have been affected by hidden charges after being sold low cost Wills. This has reportedly affected 1.5m people.
Around 20 years ago, banks were particularly keen to promote low cost Wills to customers – sometimes for as little as £75. This is still the case today, although it is less common. These Wills appear to be a great deal, until customers read the small print.
The terms and conditions which accompanied these “deals”, often allowed banks to reserve the right to act in the administration of the Will. This service came with a hefty hidden cost, which customers were unlikely to appreciate, because the cost of the Will itself was cheap, and the administration issues only came to light after the customers had passed away.
Some banks were charging a one-off administration fee of £1,500 and a charge of between 2.5% and 5% of the total estate value to administer the estate. In most cases, the actual value of the estate was irrelevant and therefore, if the estate only required a basic level of administration and was of relatively low value, e.g. less than £200,000, then a significant amount of the estate’s value was wiped out by the bank’s fees. On top of this, the legal services into which the customer was tied, only covered the conduct of the administration, and therefore if there was any challenge to the Will, or unforeseen circumstances arose during the course of the administration, then the bank’s solicitors would refuse to act and would then place the Executors in a tricky situation.
For further information about selection of Executors and choosing whether or not to act as an Executor. See our further article Executors: who to choose (Pt.1) and Pt.2, Choosing When to Act, coming in our next newsletter.
These cases highlight the need for good quality Will drafting which the customer can understand. Often, “too good to be true” deals are just that and are likely to be of insufficient quality or contain hidden charges.
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