Traps to avoid when writing a will as dodgy law firms are probed – and how to get advice you can trust


WILL writing and probate firms are being investigated by the regulator.

It comes amid reports of pressure selling to vulnerable customers and fears that some have been charged thousands for shoddy advice.

Unregulated companies rake in billions of pounds a year by offering basic legal services, such as drawing up wills, applying for power of attorney and arranging quick divorces.


Investigators at the Competition and Markets Authority are looking into reports of pressure selling to vulnerable people, and whether some firms are misleading customers by advertising a very low initial fee then charging far higher sums further down the line.

The watchdog is also examining if firms are using other unfair tactics, such as tying customers who write a will into using the same firm as an executor of their estate when they die — and then demanding a further fee.


Well-known regulated firms, such as Co-operative Legal Services, charge around £150 for a will and just over £350 for a lasting power of attorney, giving a trusted friend or family member permission to act on your behalf if you cannot manage your affairs due to illness or deteriorating mental health.

You can even get a free will from a regulated company through charity schemes.

But teaching assistant Janet Walker* has been left £5,000 in debt after paying a company to sort out her will and power of attorney documents.

The 67-year-old teaching assistant from Leigh, Gtr Manchester, want­ed to save her own kids the trauma and rows that she and her siblings faced when handling her late mother’s affairs.

Janet used Centurion Estate Planning, based in Stirling, Scotland, which has no ­connection with Chichester-based Centurion Estate Planning Group or firms with similar names.

Janet had seen an advert on Facebook about the company and was reassured she was in safe hands after reading five-star reviews online.

She paid £4,780 for two Lasting Power of Attorney documents — for her health wishes and her finances — and for drawing up a trust for her children.

For this sum, which is ten times what Co-op charge for the same service, the will was supposedly "thrown in for free".

But Janet did not have the money to pay for the legal work upfront so she put £1,500 on a Santander credit card and Centurion arranged a loan for the remaining £3,180, plus £445 in interest through Payment Assist, a firm in Melton Mowbray, Leics.

"It seemed so professional at first, then I heard nothing," Janet said.

Her calls went unanswered until six months later she got an email asking for the deeds to her house, so Centurion could set up the trust.

She said: "As if I’d send that. I felt so messed about that I cancelled and asked for a refund.

"Then the company told me it had gone into administration and had lost my money. I felt sick."


After Sun Money took up Janet’s case, Payment Assist confirmed to her that it has written off her loan and will refund the money she has paid, totalling more than £3,500.

Under the Consumer Credit Act, you can appeal to your lender by making a "Section 75" claim if you have borrowed money to pay for an item or a service which is not provided.

Sun Money also helped Janet push for her remaining money from Santander using the same rule.

A Santander spokesman said: "We have refunded the full £1,500 paid by credit card following the Section 75 claim made last week."

Payment Assist says: "As a regulated lender we take our responsibilities seriously in treating customers fairly — and we no longer deal with Centurion."

A statement from Centurion Estate Planning said the company had "ceased to trade" and had appointed Greenfield Recovery as administrators. Affected customers should receive a letter this week.


Any firm can write a will, but using a regulated service gives you much greater protection.

Solicitors are bound by strict rules and cannot charge upfront. You only pay for the advice after everything is in place.

If you are not happy with the service, first complain to the solicitor’s firm directly.

If you are still not happy you can…

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