Will writers jailed for incorrect advice regarding asset protection trusts
In June of this year, eight people were sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court due to a failure to advise clients correctly on the use of, so called, asset protection trusts. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has made the headlines. Will writers need to be aware of the implications of mis-selling and how you can avoid putting clients at risk.
Back in 2012, North East Trading Standards Association said teams in the region had received numerous complaints from members of the public over, what was described as, ‘high pressure selling’ of trusts.
Protection Trust Wills or Asset Protection Trusts are designed to help home owners protect the value of their home and safeguard their share of a property in the event of changing circumstances, such as the death of a partner.
Some companies claim that transferring the ownership of a property into such a trust would mean that a council would not be able to class the house as an asset when carrying out a means test to assess whether care home fees are payable. However, Local Authorities do have a legal right to overturn any gifts in such trusts, where they can prove that there has been a ‘deliberate deprivation of assets’.
In the most recent case, the products were found to have been mis-sold and, although paid for at the time of the visits, many of them have never been delivered.
The prison sentences received ranged from suspended sentences to up to four and a half years in prison. The most severe punishments were made in relation to unlawfully carrying out the reserved legal activity of preparing trust documents.
What these cases show is that it is now more important than ever to ensure that will writers are adequately trained and educated to protect both themselves and their clients from being placed at risk.
What more can the profession do to ensure that clients are adequately protected whilst simultaneously promoting the will writing industry as whole? How can the public be more informed about the benefits of using will writers?