Upsells and Wills, what to watch out for.

A number of clients contact us, having been upset by requests for payment of much greater sums than anticipated (known as an upsell), by a supplier engaged to make their Will. In this article I want to look at situations in which pricing opacity and disparity prove problematic. 

Before I begin, I should make clear that a majority (around two thirds) of clients, are perfectly happy with the firm they appoint to create their Will (there’s no statistical difference between solicitors and Will writers in this regard, though DIY/online users fare less well). Only around 5% feel forced to spend more than anticipated because of an upsell (albeit this is far too many), though around a quarter report spending more than they wish. 

I shall present three (non-exhaustive, though representative) examples of experiences of Confidence Wills’ clients as they were reported to us, and allow you to draw your own conclusions but under no circumstances will we draw you in with a ‘cheap Will’ only to sell you something you don’t need – aggressive upselling.

The first case is that of a couple who engaged a firm in the midlands to draft their will at a rate of £185. In the event, the will writer in question visited the client’s home and sought to offer the clients a will, with a property trust for ~£4,000 (7-1,000% the going rate). On being refused, left muttering of how he’d ‘failed miserably’(audibly)! Two weeks later the clients had no Will and didn’t know which way to turn. 

The payment requested was ridiculous, there was no trust between client and professional. Worse, there was no chance of the professional doing anything other than pushing that high value service for all it’s worth. No-one was listened to, or got what they wanted, even the optimistic salesman ended up £185 down on the day. 

The second case, is perhaps the most common configuration which we encounter. Our client, another couple, based in Manchester, took up a firm on their offer to make a will at a rate of £20 (on a discount app). They were subsequently offered a will with a trust in it for around £800. This is a fairly common marketing strategy employed by some firms. The Will Writing industry is pretty efficient economically and you can bet that those approaching you with very low fees up front make it up somewhere. As mentioned, this is known as an upsell. There is a distinct difference between offering something someone needs and drawing someone in with a price that you know client’s  won’t be paying.

The model involves taking up a lot of clients’ time, information gathering, on the basis of a very low-priced offering, building inertia and offering inflated services later. We have had clients approach us and ask us to unravel these documents without starting from scratch, of course we can’t. Don’t be fooled, if it looks too good to be true it probably is.  If you’re in this position, before you pay, speak to us and get some advice.

Finally, I want to report the case of a lady in Maidenhead. Her case is unusual; however, the consequences potentially extreme. She appointed a firm of solicitors to make her Will. They quoted around £200 for the service. On the day the professional requested £1,800 to put the lady’s home into a lifetime trust (to ‘protect it from care fees’). From a cost perspective, the price isn’t extreme, these arrangements do run into the low thousands. The problem is the product itself. Not only do lifetime trusts like this cause unnecessary paperwork, THEY DO NOT WORK! This arrangement creates a ‘reservation of benefit’. They shouldn’t be offered. There are still firms (of solicitors) presenting these to clients. Steer well clear, this presents a potentially catastrophic risk to those left behind. If encountered, you should contact the law society or the Society of Will Writers to report it. 

If you’re considering these issues, I urge you to act now, speak to our client advice team on 0121 202 4714 or click here and we’ll call you.

 

7 Reason to Write Your Will in 2022

The Estate Planning industry struggles with the somewhat unenviable notion that the services we perform require our clients to reflect on a time when they are not around. Nobody likes doing this, and we find that it is almost always an external event that gives someone pause to reflect and get their affairs in order. In any case, making a Will is a very important job and we have listed 7 reasons to write your Will this year.

 

  1. You’ve considered making a Will. This sounds trivial and implied, however, if you’re even faintly considering dealing with this ugly matter, I encourage you to guard that momentum jealously. Failure to make a Will can be catastrophic and all too often only enters consciousness when time is short, or there’s a disaster that affects you directly, when and it may be too late!
  2. We’re still in a global pandemic. Without wishing to appear pessimistic, the threat of Covid has far from passed. Restriction lifting presents a high watermark for near term risk from the disease, moreover, health services (including emergency care) are impaired (to a ‘multi-decade’ degree). Our firm has spent all together too much time meeting clients in hospital carparks!
  3. Changes to the law. Succession and in particular inheritance tax law, are in a state of perpetual evolution. The manner in which tax exemptions are applied, in particular, has far-reaching consequences for many will. Tax policies may tighten further as we seek to repay debts incurred during lockdown. By way of example, it is surprisingly common to see older wills with elements like ‘survivorship clauses’ in wills e.g. ‘if X survives me by 30 days’, such clauses have potentially serious tax implications. That’s why it’s crucial to get expert advice when making a Will.
  4. A loved one has fallen ill over the pandemic. Many of us have suffered loss over the course of pandemic. Perhaps not as a direct result. Nonetheless, this my have brought the importance of forward planning into sharp relief. It may even have resulted in an inheritance for which planning should be considered. 
  5. A major life event is in the offing or has taken place. We have seen a surge in those marrying, having children and moving house post lockdown. This may be linked to the reopening of services, rising asset prices, or pent-up demand further to government agency shutdown. You should always make a new will or review your existing one, when your circumstances change significantly and the ’20-’21 have represented pivot points for many.
  6. Following on from ‘4’ we have all gone through a period of reflection and reorganisation, if you are in a new job, a new home or other life configuration that feels unfamiliar, now may be the time to act. Once established in the day-to-day fury of a new job or family, you are unlikely to step back and deal with issues as far reaching as estate planning. Act now if able!
  7. You are able to make a will, and everyone else is! Lockdown restricted our ability to help many in need of Wills. Access to those, for example, in care homes, was limited. Face to face meetings are arguably the only way to create a robust document, albeit (untested) emergency law was implemented. Demand for Wills rose by 300% and remained high. The current period of relative normality may represent a good time to manage affairs. 

If you’re considering these issues and are thinking about making a Will, I urge you to act now, speak to our client advice team on 0121 202 4714 or click here and we’ll support you.

7 things to avoid with your Will

Will Non-exhaustively!

  1. Putting it off. People hate doing it and making a will usually enters our consciousness at a moment of existential horror. It goes against all of our hopes an instincts. If it’s on your radar, and you’ve some momentum, guard it jealously and keep going!

 

  1. ‘Sideways disinheritance’ is all too common. Mr A and Mrs A are married and have one child ‘Sophie’. Mr A and Mrs A are responsible parents and create mirror wills leaving everything to each other and then to Sophie. Mrs A dies suddenly. Mr A eventually re-marries a lady who has two children from a previous relationship. Sadly, Mr A passes away soon after remarriage, without making a new will. Marriage having revoked Mr A’s will, his entire estate passes to his new wife and Sophie is left with nothing. There is no malintent on the part of Mr A only poor luck. This situation could have been avoided with proper drafting of his original document.

 

  1. Putting gifts together in the wrong order. Possibly the most common structural problem we see with DIY wills. There is a hierarchy by which gifts are distributed. If you want to leave your house to someone, so that they can actually live in it, you need to make sure the £5,000 gift you’ve left to the dogs’ home doesn’t trigger its forced sale by executors!

 

  1. Loss of property to care fees. Local authorities are more or less destitute. Delineation of social and health-based care needs is arbitrary and political. A properly drafted will can be used to protect gifts by your will from attack by cash strapped local authorities, should someone therein need late life care. 

 

  1. Losing your Residents Nil Rate Band (RNRB). Apologies for jargon, RNRB describes £175-£350k of inheritance tax exemption, losing it can cost your beneficiaries up to £140k. You only receive this exemption to the extent an appropriately valued property is left to descendants. Failure to achieve this can occur accidentally e.g. through poorly organised gifts e.g. see ‘3’ or a misworded trust. 

 

  1. Losing your ‘transferable nil rate band’. This describes the inheritance tax relief that passes between spouses. The risk of its loss speaks to a wider point about inheritance tax exemptions, they are not automatically applied. Clear paper trails must be established for each of a couple’s deaths and exemptions applied for by executors. 

 

  1. Gifting to pets.  Not in England or Wales, in any case. You can’t give to a pet in your will. A pet is a piece of property here (unlike Singapore, where gifting to animals supports an entire area of niche tax law!)

 

If you’re considering these issues, I urge you to act now, speak to our client advice team on 0121 202 4714 or click here and we’ll call you