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Thursday, 26 April 2012

Where there's a will!


Have you made a will?

This is a matter we all think about but put off to another day. Me included!

Now I’m not writing this to say you should. I assume that is obvious to most of us. But the real question is - who does it for you? Will writing is not an activity which is presently reserved to lawyers. This means that anyone can set themselves up in business writing wills even if they have no legal qualifications.

This can lead to major complications. In fact it is a minefield.

There are very strict rules concerning the proper execution of a will. The reason is obvious – by the time a will is found out to be ineffective it is too late to correct it. So errors such as having the incorrect number of witnesses, or having a beneficiary as a witness, can make the whole document worthless. This can have a devastating effect keeping many from inheriting what the deceased person intended.

So let’s say Mr. Blogs has fallen out with his close relatives and wants to leave all of his money to a neighbour who has looked after him for years. He makes a will that effect but it turns out that the will is not properly executed, or has been lost altogether because the will writer has disappeared. The neighbour may get nothing and the estranged family inherit everything.

In a recent report the Legal Services Board – the overall regulators for legal services have called for this work to be far more closely monitored. This is not before time. Making a will is the only opportunity a person has to say who will get what they leave behind. If shoddy work ruins that intention the ones at fault should be accountable.

Anybody can make a mistake. So just because a will writer is regulated, that does not make them perfect. But what regulation will provide is protection for the consumer. Law firms are subject to strict regulation. It is also compulsory for lawyers to have indemnity insurance. So if they do mess up a will they can be held to account. The problem with entirely unregulated will writers is that there may no comeback at all if something goes wrong.

So this is very good news for all consumers.

And I really must get round to making a will.

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