ONLINE WILLS – THE PUBLIC BEWARE!
As a long standing and well regarded law firm in this area, we feel it our duty to draw people’s attention to the pitfalls and potential disasters of using an online Will service. Deciding to make a Will is an important step and needs to be carried out with an expert who can understand your circumstances, what you want to accomplish from your Will and can guide you through the law so that this can be achieved.
Solicitors are governed by the Solicitors Act and regulated by The Solicitors Regulation Authority, and will have undergone many years of training to qualify. The lawyer will want to see a client face to face to ensure that the client understands what they want to do and that they have the mental capacity to sign a Will. An identity check is carried out to ensure the person is whom they claim to be. The lawyer will also check that they are not being forced or bullied into doing it. Commonly, the lawyer will read a client’s body language to assist in forming this view. They will provide advice ranging from tax considerations to preserving assets from care fees.
Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), a national association of lawyers who specialise in acting for older and vulnerable adults, increasingly are hearing of problems concerning cheap or free wills services, automated online. Some of these services make money by charging high sums for the storage of the will, whereas solicitors generally never charge. A recent business model claims that the on line will, will be checked by a solicitor; something SFE and its members are concerned about.
Helen Vorley is a member of SFE and she says:
“Remembering the old adage that there is no such thing as a free lunch, solicitors are being asked to check these Wills free of charge, yet we have never met the client and so can’t ascertain the person’s identity, their mental capacity, any conflicts, pressures or undue influences. Also, I understand that many online systems do not ask for financial details so they can’t check the Inheritance Tax and other legal implications. Whilst a free or cheap Will may seem attractive, it is fraught with danger and the worst thing is that, no matter how bad the Will is, the Will maker is likely to think they received a great deal because the problems will not manifest themselves until after death.”