Julian Knight: At long last, moves to stop will-writers robbing the dead

Lots of people are daunted by the thought of making a will.

There's a combination of reasons for this such as concerns over solicitors' fees, ridiculous and unnecessary legalese used in will documents and just the sheer distaste many feel at the idea of the grim reaper.

No surprise, therefore, that two-thirds of us don't have a will. But even if you do not have much to leave, it's frankly a selfish act not to make at least some very simple provision because it makes the task facing those you leave behind more difficult and stressful, or at least that's the idea.

However, as we have exposed in this newspaper, the will-making industry is full of sharp practices, not so much from the local solicitors but through poorly trained employees of some will-writing firms. Some even set up stalls in shopping centres promising a cheap and easy will-writing service. But there is often a sting in the tail, in that these same firms and individuals – and anyone can set themselves up – will place their names as executors of the estate and be free to charge exorbitant fees on the estate when the will-maker dies.

In this way, the will-writing industry has managed to transform an act – making a will – which is meant to ease things for those you leave behind into an expensive future burden. And this is just one way that the will-writing industry is failing consumers. Poorly written documents, for instance, can lead to disputes and misunderstandings, while crass technical errors can even leave loved ones accidentally disinherited.

It is a minefield and we have been campaigning here at The Independent on Sunday for some order to be brought to this vital sector. Finally it seems that this may happen. Last week, the Legal Services Consumer Panel said that the will-writing industry in England and Wales must be regulated. It came to this conclusion after 10 months of investigating the industry – by mystery shopping and interviewing consumers – finding that there was "so much evidence of consumer detriment in the sector".

In fact, one in five wills drawn up in this country is believed to be deficient in some way, a truly appalling number. And in many cases this massive mis-selling won't come to light for years. Drawing up a poorly written will or one with huge executor fees is no better than robbing the dead.

But of course there are honest people in the will-writing industry sector. The Law Society governs solicitors while the Institute of Professional Willwriters has a code for members and has actively been asking for greater regulation.

But we have gone through the 10-month consumer panel process because the Government needed convincing that regulation was needed. Now it has the evidence in abundance, so let's hope it gets on with protecting consumers sharpish.

It's only a stay of execution

Cheques have been saved, hooray! The Payments Council representing the banking industry says that instead of getting rid of them by 2018, they will continue to be issued until a "suitable alternative" has been found.

Cue self-congratulatory announcements from consumer groups and the Treasury Select Committee. They had beaten back those pesky plans to deprive us of our sacred cheques. Pensioners will be able to write cheques for their grandchildren's birthdays and small businesses will be able to have their bills paid.

But how much use is this stay of execution? The crucial cheque guarantee system was scrapped a couple of weeks ago – which means in effect that consumers have no protection when accepting a cheque – and finding a retailer willing to accept one is next to impossible.

In short, the 2018 deadline may be gone but cheques are inevitably slipping into the ether. They just no longer have a definitive end date.

Loyalty doesn't pay

Here's some advice for you. Received your car insurance renewal quote recently? Well, chuck it away and get on a price comparison website so that you can shop around. You will almost certainly get a better deal elsewhere.

That advice isn't from me (although I happen to agree with it) but from a reader who had a renewal quote from Churchill insurance for £540 representing about a 30 per cent increase. The reader went on a comparison site and found the cheapest deal coming in at £450 from guess who – Churchill.

Rightly upset, the reader rings Churchill and asks it to give him the same price. In its wisdom, instead of apologising for being caught blatantly favouring new customers, the insurer has the brass neck to ask him to prove what he has told it by taking a screen grab of the price and emailing it. Only then will the insurer do the decent thing and give the lower price.

This is not an isolated incident of total disregard to even the bare bones of decent customer service. This year with premiums shooting up – in part due to ambulance-chasing law firms who staggeringly get many of their leads from insurers – the idea of loyalty being rewarded by insurers is dead. If you aren't prepared to switch, you will be taken for a mug.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    COO / Chief Operating Officer

    £80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments