An episode of BBC Rip Off Britain earlier this week warned of the risks of using unregulated law firms. The episode highlighted that there have been many people across the UK who have recently been wrongly advised to put their assets into trusts as a way that purports to protect them from care home fees and inheritance tax.
Fiona McSmailes, Solicitor, in our Wills Trust and Probate department, discusses the episode and how Sills & Betteridge can help.
This week on BBC Rip off Britain we watched families who had been given advice which was entirely inappropriate for their needs and created complex financial arrangements leaving them and/or their families in financial limbo. The unsuspecting clients had engaged legally unqualified salespeople who had pushed homeowners into putting their properties and cash into trusts, promising that these assets would be protected from care home fees and inheritance tax in the future. These people had been charged hefty fees to create these trusts and had been assured by their advisers that the trusts would save them thousands of pounds in the future.
The people that appeared on the programme had found that the solutions provided by the unregulated company did not in fact work as they were promised, and the arrangements have ended up costing the families thousands of pounds and a lot of unnecessary delay and distress. Often the arrangements do not save the families any money at all and they can be extremely difficult and time consuming to unravel, particularly if the Trustees appointed cannot be contacted.
If an adviser is suggesting something that sounds too good to be true – then it probably is. A single solution will rarely achieve everything. The key to successful estate planning is often compromise, looking carefully at your individual and family circumstances and coming to a well-thought-out decision.
In light of the BBC documentary highlighting the pitfalls of poor legal advice, the big questions for consumers might be, how can I find a legal adviser I can trust? It is important to research who is advising you and it may be advisable to;
1) Look for an adviser who is regulated. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority therefore you can trust that their advice is measured.
2) Look for an adviser who has an excellent reputation. Often firms or legal professionals will have online reviews or testimonials so that you can find out about the experiences of previous clients, before deciding to choose a particular adviser.
3) Choose someone who is a professional – for example, you should consider if they a member of any professional bodies such as the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners or if have they any other extra qualifications.
4) Find an adviser who is insured so that, in the very event that something did go wrong, you would be covered. All Solicitors’ firms are insured.
At Sills & Betteridge we have a team of approachable, professional, regulated lawyers across our offices. We are experts in estate and succession planning and regularly assist our clients with care home and tax mitigation. If you would like to speak to us about how we can assist you with planning for your future, then please call us on 0800 542 4245 or email firstname.lastname@example.org