Area of law: Wills
Complaint reason(s): Costs information deficient, Costs excessive, failure to advise
Remedy: To apologise, to pay £300 compensation
Outcome: Ombudsman decision accepted by complainant
Mr and Mrs Y went to the firm for advice on writing their wills, and also for information on inheritance tax, life assurance polices, and investments. They had recently had a lottery win, and so when they went to the firm, their priority was to have wills in place. At the time, Mr and Mrs Y were not married so the firm explained they would draw up temporary wills, which would be replaced when Mr and Mrs Y got married.
The firm explained to Mr and Mrs Y the tax implications if they got married, and said that they could get life insurance policies which covered them for any inheritance tax. They also discussed trusts for their children and the inheritance tax limits. The firm later sent a client care letter, explaining they could not give an accurate estimate of costs due to the number of issues involved, but expected their costs would be between £2,500 and £5,000, based on 15 hours of work. They also said they could charge a value factor of 1.5% on the first £1million held by the firm.
The work went ahead, and the temporary wills were drawn up, and when Mr and Mrs Y married, new wills were drawn up to replace them. The firm also set up the discretionary trusts for their two children. Mr and Mrs Y said they had sought independent financial advice in relation to their life insurance policies.
The firm then submitted a bill of £21,500 to Mr and Mrs Y. They paid the bill but later raised a complaint, feeling they had not been given enough information about costs.
From our investigation we felt that the firm should have given Mr and Mrs Y more information about the increasing costs, and the bill would undoubtedly have been a shock to Mr and Mrs Y. However, given the situation and how determined Mr and Mrs Y were to have these measures in place, we didn’t think they would have stopped instructing the firm had they been aware of the rising costs. We therefore decided the firm should apologise to Mr and Mrs Y and pay £300 compensation.