Last night's Panorama programme has caused a heated debate within the financial and legal communities over will writing.
The programme, Wills: The final rip off?, exposed malpractices by will writing companies which exposed consumers to hidden charges and even stole their inheritance.
IFAs are now debating what is the best advice for clients who need referring to a will writing specialist. Our readers have been split between those who only recommend solicitors (which are regulated) and others who claim this is not a totally risk-free option.
‘Spike' writes: "Who would be daft enough not to use a solicitor? They are not that expensive for wills."
‘TP' responds: "Solicitors might not be cowboys, but they rarely offer value for money. They push themselves to be made executor, which I suggest is a much bigger scandal."
IFA Mark Edwards, of Seren Group, claims some will writers in his experience could not be trusted.
"We did look at outsourcing to will writing companies but they were mostly untrustworthy and made me uneasy. I now recommend all our clients to see solicitors."
Edwards also criticisies high street banks and building societies which he says can be guilty of unethical will writing practices.
However, Steve Pett, of Allied Professional Will Writers (APWW), defended independent will writers and their trade bodies.
"Solicitors have massive compensation issues and their PII is sky high," he says.
"Few solicitors do any initial training on wills when they go through university as it is an unpopular and unprofitable backwater.
"Once fully qualified, they can if they wish take specialist courses which turn them into first rate will writers, but most don't, so the average solicitor may well have less training than the average will writer on wills."
Pett claims solicitors charge far more than will writers and push themselves forward as executors. He adds the will writing bodies are also "working tirelessly to raise professional standards".
Solicitors have waded into the argument as well, claiming their services are clearly priced and guarantee properly planned wills.
"Solicitors are required to set out in writing the basis of their charges, and in many cases wills are undertaken for a fixed fee with free storage of wills and other documents," Alistair MacFarlane, partner at Thomas Eggar LLP says.
"Panorama highlights the potential for getting it wrong without full legal advice, and the need for proper regulation of will writers.
"It can be very costly to undo after you have gone and can leave your family in disarray when they have to pick up the pieces as problems generally only come to light when you have died."
Tom Gormanly, managing director of the Will Writing Company and a founder member of the Institute of Professional WillWriters, adds: "In truth it has been something of a surprise that legislation has not been introduced before. The tighter the controls and the better the training the less likelihood that anything untoward will happen.
"Since 1990 we have written over 100,000 wills with a zero record of upheld complaints."
More than half of people over the age of 55 see financial security as a top priority in retirement, yet a third allocate more time to buying a new car, research from Legal & General (L&G) has found.
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