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An article out in yesterday’s Daily Mail Online has indicated that up to 1.5 million people have been sold “rip-off wills” by our high street banks.

You may recall that during the 1990’s and early 2000’s a number of banks were offering will writing services as an added extra to their accounts and mortgage deals. Some banks offered free wills provided that you had a certain account with them or offered wills at what was considered a discounted rate compared to those offered by solicitors and will specialists.
Although initially confirming your wishes about what would happen to your money and property when you passed away, some of these wills included onerous provisions in the small print that could end up leaving your proposed beneficiaries with a lot less than what you had intended.

Wills from one bank allegedly added a provision in the small print that they reserved the right to act as executors of your estate when you passed away. This would mean that the bank rather than trusted family, friends or your local firm of solicitors would be responsible for dealing with your estate and dealing with any inheritance tax or the sale of property. In return for acting as executors, this bank would charge an administration fee of £1,500.00 and then 2.5% of your total estate. A different bank reserved the right to charge 4% on estates up to £500,000 and then an additional fee of 3% for the next £500,000 and then 1.5% on anything over £1,000,000.

Given that in 2017, the Land Registry stated that the average house price in the UK was £223,257 this would mean that you could be paying at least £7,000.00 plus VAT, without even considering any bank accounts or investments!

The Daily Mail have indicated that a number of people have contacted the various banks who included similar provisions. They generally were told that they will have been advised about the fees involved at the outset, but this does not appear to be the case for all. Some people have been able to successfully argue a reduction in the fees charged, especially in the event that the estate being dealt with is relatively simple, i.e. there are very few assets or the assets are generally being passed to a surviving spouse. However others have had to pay the full fees.

A further concern is that a number of the bank are now refusing to act or offer legal advice where there are disputes between beneficiaries of the wills. This means that despite still being required to pay the banks fees, the family may need to instruct an additional solicitor and pay their legal costs as well!

What you need to do

Rachael Brook, Partner in the Private Client team commented: "The general advice that has been given is that if you purchased or received a will from your bank, you need to check the terms of the same carefully to see what fees will be charged if they act as executors. If you have any issues, write to your bank and either ask them to reduce the fee or ask them to stand down.

"Please note that they may charge an administration fee for this.In the event that you no longer wish the bank to act as executors, you should look at making a new will."

Here at Ramsdens, we have a number of will specialists who would be happy to help. The majority of our will clients tend to request that their proposed executors are friends and family. This is perfectly fine and we are able to offer them support and assistance in dealing with the estate when required. No charges will be incurred following your death unless your executors specifically ask us to assist.

In the event that you believe that a professional executor is required (for example where the estate is made up of multiple accounts, trust and investments, or where you feel no one else would be able to deal with the same) then please let us know and our trusted solicitors can provide you with full details of any fees that may be charged when dealing with your estate.

Whether or not you decide to appoint a trusted family member or friend and/or a professional executor, we would charge the same fixed fee for the preparation of your will.

Finally, we offer a free storage facility for your wills and any deeds for property that you may have. A small charge may be requested if you or your executors decide not to use Ramsdens to assist with your estate but at least you’re safe in the knowledge that no fee will be paid for the time being!

To speak to someone about updating your Will or making a Will for the first time call us on 01484 821 500, text LAW to 67777 or email willsandprobate@ramsdens.co.uk.