Julian Knight: Where there's a will, there seems to be a fast quid
When the testator dies the will writing firm levies fees on the estate
Sunday 17 February 2013
Having exposed the shocking failings of the will writing trade in the past, it was very welcome to hear that the Legal Services Board and Legal Services Consumer Panel, following its investigation, has finally called for the industry to be properly regulated.
The problems with some of these will writing firms are extensive. Apart from will writers with only the barest training making quite fundamental errors, thereby endangering people's legacies, many firms sucker people in with cheap or low-cost writing fees but then insert themselves as a joint executor. The result? When the testator dies the will writing firm levies disproportionately high fees on the deceased's estate. In essence, it's a case of robbing the dead.
Organisations such as the Institute of Professional Willwriters – disturbed by the influx of cowboy operators – have been campaigning vigorously for two decades for proper regulation of the sector.
And following a three-year investigation, the Legal Services Board and the Consumer Panel agree. But there is a major problem: the two bodies have not agreed that there should be rules to curtail will writers from being executors. As a result any legislation will more than likely ignore this key area, in effect emasculating the new laws. Pity.
Ed Miliband must think the British public has the attention span and recall of an exceptionally stupid and forgetful goldfish. I am staggered that the Labour leader would seek to reintroduce the 10p tax rate, the party having unceremoniously dumped it in 2008.
Putting aside the astounding chutzpah of Labour wanting to fight on the 10p tax rate (it is akin to the Lib Dems saying they will cut tuition fees), the sums don't add up in the slightest. The now almost daily cited cure to all our financial ills, the "mansion tax", will pay for the 10p tax rate. This is despite the fact that it has already been earmarked for tax credits, but let's pencil over that. Labour's abolition of the 10p tax rate paid for a 2p cut in the basic rate – that's about £4bn. So any mansion tax will have to raise, each and every year, about £4bn to pay for the restitution of the 10p tax rate. That's an awful lot of mansions.
The maths don't add up even on the back of an envelope and the constant citing of a mansion tax suggests we are being softened up for a more general asset tax down the line, in the same way as the two other fiscal basket cases, Spain and Greece.
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