Barclays accused over 'obscene' fees for customers' wills

Beneficiaries may face fees of up to 4.5 per cent on an estate's value if the bank is appointed executor

Major high street banks and law firms are among companies charging exorbitant fees for acting as executors on customers' wills, an investigation has revealed. People taking up offers of free or discounted will-writing services have been warned their beneficiaries could end up paying "obscene" fees.

An Independent on Sunday inquiry has revealed some major high street banks, solicitors and will-writing firms advise clients to appoint them as executors on customers' wills and levy fees of up to 4.5 per cent on the estate on death. On an estate worth £500,000, that equates to £22,500 – about four times as much as the fees that the best-buy probate firms charge.

Barclays is among the highest-charging group of banks, solicitors and will-writing firms facing criticism. It charges up to 4.5 per cent for acting as an executor. An executor's role is to administer the deceased's assets and ensure they are correctly distributed between beneficiaries and the taxman.

The bank has been criticised for using aggressive tactics to persuade customers to appoint it as executor. "Their game plan is to get you into the branch to talk to the business manager, who really is just a salesman," said Tim Walker of Final Duties, an independent probate broker.

Barclays defended its actions, saying that it acted as executor only in a minority of cases and that its policy is to step down when asked to do so by a beneficiary. "Appointing us to act as the executor of the estate is a decision that clients positively make to help their estate in a difficult time, and in full awareness of our fees. It is certainly not a prerequisite for clients to use the executor service," a spokesman said.

The bank said its fees are fair, considering the amount and quality of work involved. However, critics insist that a fee of 4.5 per cent is very high when compared with that of even the most experienced solicitors, who are able to undertake the same work at about a quarter of what Barclays is charging. Barclays also outsources some probate work to ITC Legal Services, an unregulated firm which charges clients with a larger estate only 1 per cent if instructed directly. "Barclays is potentially charging a mark-up of 300 per cent. This is obscene," Mr Walker said. He warned that there were unscrupulous operators offering to write wills. "Wills are now also being written by unqualified people who have no professional ethics whatsoever," he said.

Consumers were also warned that some will-writing companies and banks insist on writing themselves in as a joint or sole executor. "Some solicitors or will-writing companies will add themselves in the first draft as executors in the hope of getting the fees for doing the estate work. But if the testator does not want them to be involved he should ask for them to be taken out before signing," said Charlotte Asbury, a senior paralegal at MTA Solicitors.

A codicil can be added to an existing will to remove unwanted executors. However, it applies only if the person drawing up the will is still alive. For those with a relatively simple estate, family members and close friends are often appointed executor. Solicitors can then be used if complications arise. "Appoint someone you know and trust as your executor and talk through what is expected of them. Make clear that if they find something too complex or simply are too busy, they are free to appoint a solicitor and agree the fees for carrying out the work," said Peter McCarthy from the consumer group Which?.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Administrator

    £13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about custom...

    Recruitment Genius: Dialler Administrator

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Main purpose: Under the directi...

    Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City of London

    £35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen