Anyone who has written a Will should carefully re-examine the terms. Many Will drafting firms, including leading banks, hide huge fees in the small print that can slice tens of thousands of pounds off an inheritance.
Barclays Wealth, an offshoot of the high street bank, tried to charge John and Judy Berryman, from Godstone, Surrey, tens of thousands of pounds to act as executors of the will of John’s aunt, Valerie Sage. The bank was appointed executor when it drew up Miss Sage’s will, giving it the right to handle the administration of her estate after death. The Berrymans believe their aunt would never have agreed to this if she had been aware of the charges, which were hidden in the small print. After her death, in November, Barclays Wealth initially said it would take a fee of 4 per cent of the estate — a total of £25,200.
Judy Berryman says: “I expect to pay a fair price for a job well done. I do, however, have a large problem with the blatant abuse of the trust placed in Barclays by an elderly lady. At the best the handling of our aunt’s affairs was distasteful and at worst downright unethical.”
Mrs Berryman says: “When we asked Barclays how much we would be charged, it skirted around the question and referred us to the brochure. It was only when we read the small print that we realised just how extortionate the fees were. The information, while not withheld, was never volunteered.”
Many will-writing services imply that it is essential to appoint a professional as an executor.
Once High bank fees you appoint a professional in your Will you enter into a binding legal contract. If you wish to remove an unwanted executor from the Will you can do this by changing your Will or using a codicil. However, this works only if the person drawing up the Will is still alive.
If the beneficiaries want to change a named bank, solicitor or Will writing company after death they can ask it to renounce executorship, giving a reason, such as unreasonable costs.
Barclays Wealth agreed to renounce its executorship of Miss Sage’s Will after the Berrymans approached Final Duties, an independent probate broker, which found a quote for the same work for £4,485.
If an institution refuses to budge, and you think that its fees are unreasonable, they can be removed only by making an application to the High Court.
Don’t assume that if you use a solicitor or Will writer that you will get an expert.