Ask Sindie: 'I paid the cash but I didn't get the goods'

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The money was debited from my Visa account and Tchibo promised me it would deliver the goods within 14 days.

However, by 24 June, I had heard nothing and received no delivery.

I called customer services at Tchibo Direct (the company's online and catalogue arm), only to be told it had no record of my order.

A manager told me that somebody would call at a later date to " clarify" the situation.

But nobody did.

To find out what was going on, I telephoned customer services again, but to no avail.

I've had no guarantee that I will receive the chairs or a refund, and nobody at Tchibo is able or willing to help me.

Can you please help?

DW, Bristol

An investigation by Tchibo has revealed that the initial problem was caused by a simple administrative error - the company had the wrong address.

But on discovering that you had not received your goods, its normal reaction - and policy - should have been to refund you straight away, says a spokeswoman.

As you know, this was not the case.

Tchibo is sorry for the "oversight" and says it will refund the cost of the chairs and the delivery.

Your four chairs are to be sent to you without a delivery charge and, as a gesture of goodwill, a £15 credit will be added to your Tchibo account.

Earlier this year, both my parents - who are in their early 60s - announced that they were to retire in 2006. They also talked about writing a will and said they were going to see a solicitor.

However, I've recently learnt that their revised plan - after chatting with friends - is to do it themselves. A solicitor is expensive, they argue, adding that there's nothing wrong with drafting their own will using a £12 pack bought from a stationery shop.

I don't know much about the law but I'm concerned they might be taking a risk. Am I worrying unduly?

PA, Grantham

The importance of being able to pass your assets on smoothly to family and loved ones cannot be underestimated. But despite this, not enough of us draw up a will.

Three-quarters of people under the age of 45 have made no preparation at all, it emerged last year .

It's too late for your parents to take this advice now, but sorting out a legacy early on and simply updating it every few years makes it easier for all parties in the event of an early death.

Sitting down to address the consequences of your own mortality is not the easiest thing to do - hence the number of people who put it off for too long.

At least your parents are finally taking action, but it is to be hoped they haven't just relied on the advice of friends, and that they have thought long and hard about going down the DIY route.

They will, of course, save themselves the expense of employing a solicitor (law firms charge from £100 for a straightforward piece of estate planning, to £600 for more complex arrangements). But there are plenty of pitfalls with a DIY will. So it would be worth running through these with your parents.

Misunderstanding of legal rights, lack of knowledge of tax-law technicalities and unclear instructions can be costly. Any will that then ends up being contested can result in high legal costs and, potentially, the emotional trauma of fighting family and friends for money.

Common mistakes include wrongly trying to make a gift of property - half of a house to a child, say - when it is jointly owned. A home must be legally held as "tenants in common" on the deeds, instead of "jointly owned", before it can be split in this way.

Many people leaving money to a good cause, meanwhile, don't include the right details. Simply writing "cancer charity" is too vague and can mean your intended charity misses out.

Not writing in clear English can also lead to misinterpretations.

Another mistake that is easily made occurs when individuals miscalculate their worth and give away more than they actually own.

Wills also need to be constantly reviewed since personal circumstances can often change, particularly after a death, divorce and remarriage, or a move abroad.

However, if your parents are confident enough to divide up their assets, there is no reason why they shouldn't at least consider a DIY will. As a rule, a simple estate comprising a home, savings and the odd heirloom will not be too much of a problem.

That said, with inheritance tax (IHT) to pay at a rate of 40 per cent on any estate worth over £275,000, it could still be worth opting for a solicitor - depending on your parents' finances.

If their estate is worth a lot more than this, the advice of a lawyer with expertise in setting up trusts and making charitable gifts could cut the IHT bill payable after their deaths.

If you need help from our consumer champion, write to Sindie at The Independent on Sunday, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or email . We cannot return documents, give personal replies or guarantee to answer letters. We accept no legal responsibility for advice given.

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