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Beware of ‘free’ bank Wills which may come with a sting in their tail

People who have made a Will, very often free of charge, with a bank are being encouraged to have it reviewed to make sure it doesn’t contain expensive clauses.

Several high street banks offer Will writing services, some at a reduced cost, but others completely free of charge to customers.

While this service may seem attractive, and no more than a perk for having an account with the bank, David Webb, a Director and Head of Wills, Probate and Older Client Services at Mander Hadley, warns that very often the bank appoints themselves as executor and this can prove very costly.

Banks when acting as executor will rely on their standard terms and conditions, and in some cases are charging fees which are considerably higher than a solicitor would charge for the same service.

David said: “In the last two decades many banks have really pushed their Will writing services to customers, making them seem cheaper than going to a solicitor.

“As Will writing is not a regulated service, it is an easy service for them to provide. However, many families at a time of bereavement are finding out they are stuck with expensive terms and conditions and their freedom to seek their own legal adviser has effectively been removed. They cannot seek a better fee or better terms and conditions. They will not have a say in how the estate is administered or how the affairs of the deceased are wound up. This can cause a lot of additional heartache for the family at what is a difficult time for them anyway.”

David said that, following a bereavement, the bank could be asked by the family to step down as executor or to renegotiate their fee, but they can just say no and that would be that. The bank would not even have to explain or give reasons.

“The best advice would be for testators to review their Will and perhaps make a new one to clarify that all previous versions of the Will are revoked and cancelled,” David continued. “By doing this and removing the bank as executor, the testator would restore the ability of the family to make their own choices and decisions. This could save them thousands of pounds, as well as handing them back control over how the estate is dealt with.

“There are of course circumstances where it might well be appropriate for a professional executor to be appointed, but it should not be automatic and it ought to be the result of a careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages.”

David said that people looking to review and redraft their Will in light of this news should opt for a professional Will writing service, ideally from a solicitor who is an expert in this area, preferably a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners or of Solicitors for the Elderly.

David advised, “I would strongly encourage people to review their current will and executorship arrangements and to think this through with great care.”

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