Serial will writing scammer leaves terminally-ill mother with no will
A number of recent scams have led to questioning over the way will writing services are delivered and whether there needs to be more formal regulation within the sector.
Reporting on a recent case today (16th December 2016) was BBC Radio 4’s, You and Yours. The programme was contacted by Samantha Mobs from Sheffield, who says her family was duped into handing over nearly £1,000 to a company who never completed the work that was promised.
Lincolnshire-based firm, Indeed Law Limited was the business that said it would provide Mobs’ parents with both will writing and trust services. The company was set up in March 2015 by Alana Benson, 42, who is said to have been a director of at least 3 other firms and therefore had previous experience running similar businesses.
Having been taken ill, Mobs’ mother had allegedly bought a funeral plan, when she received a cold call from Indeed Law offering their services shortly afterwards.
Mobs relayed the incident during the You and Yours broadcast, saying how someone from the firm came to visit her mother in hospital and made her sign documents, as well as pay upfront:
“At this point she couldn’t move her arms properly and could hardly speak.
“He sat by her hospital bed with my father and got her to sign some paperwork to say she wanted this will to be sorted…then asked her to pay upfront. She struggled to sign the form, so my dad had to help her hold the pen and sign. As she couldn’t sign a cheque, she rang the bank and did a bank a bank transfer over the phone there and then for £995.”
The family didn’t receive any contact for months, then in late June, Indeed Law got back in contact with the Mobs’ father again, and sent someone to his house.
“A lady from Indeed Law came to my father’s house to ask a few more questions,” said Mobs. “Later on some paperwork was sent to them about the transfer of trust, but still no will. The paperwork was very long-winded. My parents didn’t understand it and so asked if [Indeed Law] could come over and speak to them and explain it before they signed. From then on we didn’t hear a word.
“Sadly my mum was diagnosed in June with motor neurone disease and because it’s a very quick illness, she died in September. She died without a will and without the transfer of trust taking place.”
Benson was contacted by the You and Yours team, but refused to appear on the programme. Her statement claimed all the services were provided to Mobs’ parents that were required and the firm even went over and above what the family had asked for. Having received this response from Benson, it was later found that a number of her previous firms were currently in various stages of liquidation, and Trading Standards are still receiving complaints from companies representing the former clients.
It was reported that Indeed Law Limited has now gone into administration.
This case raises questions within the will writing profession and poses the long-standing argument as to whether these services should become formally regulated. There are however, a few organisations that seek to provide guidance, training and best-practice standards within the sector. These include The Society of Will Writers (SWW), the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).
Paul Tansley, Executive Chairman at the IPW spoke on the programme about how great the impact of poor service can be particularly for vulnerable clients and how the IPW and other organisations are aiming to build trust between professionals and the consumers:
“As far as the unregulated sector is concerned, there are a small number of organisations that have membership services. [The IPW] requires that, in order to become a member, you first of all have to be competent; you have to pass the entrance examinations; you must have professional indemnity insurance; you need a recognised complaints procedure; and you need to have a terms of engagement which is agreed by the client before the business takes place.”
Will writers are advised to be aware of the implications of bad practice, and that it’s not only elderly clients who can quickly become vulnerable when faced with daunting and unfamiliar situations.
Mobs concluded: “My mum was only 66 when she died, so she wasn’t very old. My dad’s 70…and has always been quite a strong character. He’s very pleased that my mother didn’t know what happened because she would have been distraught. [The situation] made him feel very upset and for the first time in his life, vulnerable.”