Carla Brown

Partner, Solicitor and Head of Wills, Trusts & Probate

DATE PUBLISHED: 15 Sep 2023 LAST UPDATED: 24 Jan 2024

The dangers of using unqualified advisors in Wills and estate planning

The preparation of your Will and estate planning are very personal processes which involve making important and particularly sensitive decisions. You will want to be confident that the person you choose to help you with this gives you high-quality advice which is tailored to your specific needs.

The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), of which I am a member, have recently published a research report demonstrating the importance of using advisors with specialist qualifications and sufficient expertise to help you plan for your future. They have conducted a survey with their members in relation to wills, trusts and tax advice – the key findings are as follows:

  • A majority of members had come across poorly written wills; 79% had encountered wills containing errors and a staggering 45% had come across invalid wills that had been drafted by unqualified advisors.
  • 41% had been involved in will disputes because of incompetent will and estate planning.
  • Most members had come across incompetencies and dishonesty in the drafting and administration of trusts.
  • 34% had come across situations where clients had been given poor tax advice which had led to significant inheritance tax bills which could have been avoided had they been given sound advice to begin with. The financial impact of this is having a knock-on effect, causing families to experience psychological distress.

The results of the survey demonstrate the devastating impact that poor quality advice can have on families not only financially but also emotionally. This can be extremely stressful for clients already going through a particularly sensitive time in their lives. It highlights how important it is to check credentials when looking for an advisor to ensure that they have sufficient qualifications and experience.

What qualifications should I be looking for?

Will writing is unregulated in England and Wales. This means anyone can prepare you a will, even if they don’t have any formal qualifications! However, as the survey demonstrates, qualifications and experience are key in making sure you receive high quality advice and decently prepared wills. On a similar note, see my blog on the importance of investing in your will.

You should look for individuals who are members of regulated bodies. Qualified solicitors are subject to the SRA’s Code of Conduct which sets the standard of professionalism required by solicitors. The code ensures that your solicitor will act in your best interests, will not mislead, or attempt to take advantage of you and will always act with honesty and integrity. The implications of failing to comply with the code can be significant and the SRA will hold solicitors accountable if they don’t meet the required standards.

Members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) are authorised lawyers and are held to their own  CileX Code of Conduct, which similarly ensures high standards of professional performance.

Becoming a solicitor or a member of CILEx is challenging. It involves at least 5-6 years of studying and working in a legal environment.  You can be reassured that they will have the experience required to handle your matters competently.

STEP is a professional body seeking to set high professional standards for those advising individuals on their future plans. As a full member of STEP, not only am I required to adhere to the SRA Code of Conduct, I must also abide to the STEP Code of Professional Conduct and Code for Will Preparation. These set a high standard for the service and competence that a client can expect from a STEP member.

If you find an advisor with one of the above credentials, it should give you the confidence that they will be able to deal with your plans competently.

To summarise, it is extremely important that you check the qualifications and experience of your advisor so as to avoid the dangers of having poorly drafted wills and receiving incompetent tax and trust advice.

How can Ellis Jones help?

If you’d like to reduce the tax burden on those left behind, plan your estate to suit your family circumstances and seek guidance in the preparation of your Will, contact one of our experts from the Wills, Trusts & Probate team on 01202 525333, who will be more than happy to have a chat about what might be right for you.

How can we help?

When you submit this form an email will be sent to the relevant department who will contact you within 48 hours. If you require urgent advice please call 01202 525333.

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