Julian Knight: Debt is as much about unhappiness as it is plain greed

Up to half of people in debt may have mental health problems, according to the Money Advice Trust charity. This tallies with my experience.

A few years back when working for the BBC, I spent a week interviewing people from a South London estate who had got into serious debt difficulty. There were single mums, single men in low-paid work or no work, and people whose partners had recently left them. Most were under treatment for depression – which in our society usually involves dosing people up and leaving them to their own devices. They were uniformly excluded by the banks (many relied on rip-off doorstep lenders), and were at the margins of our broken society. Loans were often taken out to pay for the kids' Christmas presents or to fix a broken washing machine or simply to buy something to make the individual feel at least a little bit a part of our must-have-now society. There was one man, in his late twenties and working collecting shopping trolleys at a supermarket, had taken out a loan of a few hundred pounds to buy a computer games system. With interest, he ended up owing over a thousand pounds. Was he irresponsible or, as most of us would feel in such a miserable situation, simply depressed?

There are many causes of debt, often interlocking – lack of basic maths skills and, yes, depression are two of the biggest. Soon after my time in South London, I was consulted over a BBC1 TV debt special and I explained that mental health issues, feelings of exclusion and, frankly, life disappointment, lay behind a lot of indebtedness. On the day, though, the producers preferred to use a case study of some twenty-something West London girl who was in debt due to her "addiction" to new shoes. She should have known much better, but the bank of mum and dad would no doubt ride to the rescue. Nothing could have been further from the life experiences of millions of debtors.

Will fury

I have received a huge response to last week's article "Beware the curse of the unwanted executor" which investigated how some banks, will-writing firms and solicitors offer free or cheap wills to consumers in the hope of installing themselves as executors and then charging huge fees when the estate goes through probate.

Some readers' stories are breathtaking; banks charging tens of thousands just to take money from a deceased's savings account and pay it to the rightful beneficiaries; unregulated will-writing firms acting aggressively when asked to step aside as executor, mindful, no doubt, that this is the only way they will keep their pounds of flesh.

A colleague of mine reported that he had seen a will-writing firm setting up a stall in a shopping centre – a little like those ghastly no-win-no-fee ambulance chasers – offering to write wills for free, probably naming themselves as executors and hoping down the line to scoop bumper fees.

The impression from your letters and emails has been that this problem is far greater than I first thought, that actually it's a quiet (so far) mis-selling scandal, that there are greedy, unscrupulous firms trying to do what amounts to robbing the dead.

Little surprises me in the world of money – the greed, the abject lack of morality over ripping people off and calling it marketing – but clearly the will market is like the Wild West, full of con artists and rip-off merchants.

It is in need of fee capping and regulation fast, because there are thousands of people out there who have wills with a massively overpriced, unregulated executor written in. Please continue to send me your stories and observations, we will be returning to this.

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

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: HR Benefits Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

    £30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

    Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

    £250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

    Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

    £230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?