Grieving families are being urged to beware of unqualified estate planning advisors by leading Sussex law firm Mayo Wynne Baxter after a new report reveals cases where incompetence has led to clients paying thousands of pounds in additional tax.
The latest survey published by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) uncovers the impact of unqualified advisers in the estate planning sector which included cases of paying additional tax of up to £2m.
The law firm is calling for urgent regulation to save people from suffering financially due to poor advice at a time when they are going through the pain of a bereavement.
Jessica Partridge, partner specialising in private client law at Mayo Wynne Baxter, said: "It's appalling that families are being misled and taken advantage of by unqualified advisors, especially at a time when they may be grieving for a loved one.
"No-one should have to deal with unnecessary financial or emotional woes because of bad advice.
"Clients inadvertently enter these arrangements, thinking they have put their affairs in order, when really they have been let down and taken advantage of as the advisor lacks the specialist skills and knowledge to give what is extremely technical legal and tax advice.
"Sadly, some will writing firms prey on vulnerable clients, offering fixed fees they claim will be cheaper than a solicitor. But there are hidden costs, some of which may not be apparent until after death - and families can end up being forced to pay thousands to specific companies for estate administration work.
"The STEP report highlights that a professional will typically costs less than £500.
"We urgently need regulation for those who write wills and administer estates to ensure minimum standards of competence and behaviour to protect the public."
Bad practise includes dishonesty in the drafting and administration of trusts and cases where large parts of loved ones' estates have had to be spent on additional tax or legal fees to fix problems following poor advice.
The report highlighted cases where families paid far more in tax than they needed to because of bad advice given by advisors who did not consider enough factors, with extra amounts paid ranging from £25,000 to £2m.
Just over half of those surveyed (54 per cent) had come across firms making false claims about the wills they are selling to clients. Of those, 71 people said advisors had illegally told their clients they could avoid care home fees by putting their home and other assets into a trust.
Over half (55 per cent) had come across cases of incompetence or dishonesty in the drafting and administration of trusts, while almost 80 per cent of those surveyed said they had come across cases of wills with errors.
For more information please visit: https://www.mayowynnebaxter.co.uk/