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The Pitfalls Of Using Unregulated Companies To Draft Your Will

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An interesting case currently in the High Court highlights the potential problems faced when Wills are drawn up by unregulated companies.

In this case, a man had a £90 Will drawn up by a company with an unregulated will-writing division.  He owned his property jointly with his wife and intended to gift his half share of the property to his daughter. The appropriate clause was drafted into his Will.  However, the joint tenancy was not severed at the Land Registry; a crucial step which would have ensured that his half share would not pass by survivorship to his wife on his death.

This error by the draftsman only came to light once the father had died and it was too late to rectify the problem. Despite the Will stating that his half share should go to his daughter, it passed to his wife by virtue of survivorship as joint tenants.

When you own a property with another person, you either hold it as joint tenants or tenants in common. With a joint tenancy, the parties each own the whole of the property and so when one dies, the property passes absolutely to the survivor, whether or not their Will states otherwise.  You can however, serve notice to the Land Registry to sever the joint tenancy and hold the property as tenants in common.  If parties hold as tenants in common, they will each hold their own share in the property (often 50% each) and on the death of one owner, their share will pass to whoever they have stipulated in their Will, rather than automatically passing to the survivor. Clearly if the draftsman in this case had severed the tenancy the provision in the Will would have been effected.

What is alarming in this case is that the company in question refused to follow the recommendation of the Legal Ombudsman to compensate the daughter for her loss even though they admitted they were negligent. The company relied on the fact that their Wills department was unregulated and as such were not answerable to the ombudsman. Clearly, if such an error occurred at a law firm, they would have to follow the recommendation of the ombudsman. The daughter here will now incur massive legal expenses at court.

This highlights the dangers of using unregulated institutions with unqualified persons who are not answerable to any legal or financial body. They can lack the technical and practical skills required and in a lot of cases do not even meet with the client to get all of the necessary information. Such methods enable them to offer cut price fees which may look attractive but could cost you a lot more in the long run.

It is therefore advisable to use a Law firm such as Neves for writing your Will as we are regulated to carry out this type of work and have several qualified experts who can assist you.