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When it comes to drawing up your will, or setting up a trust, using a qualified lawyer who knows what they’re talking about is the best way to ensure you get a legally sound result that actually reflects your wishes. It’s a message that carries extra weight after a recent court case involving a businessman who scammed vulnerable pensioners in Runcorn and Widnes out of thousands of pounds in exchange for providing them with poor quality wills and trust deeds.
Businessman Samuel Eaton targeted pensioners in and around Runcorn and Widnes through his bogus companies, The Pensioners’ Association and The Senior Citizen’s Advice Centre. From his base of operations in an industrial estate in Wigan, Mr Eaton produced literature which gave the impression his services were affiliated to AgeUK, Macmillan Cancer Support and the charity Sense.
In addition to misleading marketing materials, Mr Eaton also ‘cold called’ potential victims before visiting them at home and convincing them to hand over hundreds of pounds in exchange for wills and trust deeds. But when these documents were examined as part of his trial at Liverpool Crown Court this week, experts found they were riddled with errors, inconsistencies and ambiguous clauses, making them basically useless.
Finding Mr Eaton guilty of four offences of ‘engaging in a commercial practice which contrived the requirement of due diligence’, trial judge Alan Conrad QC said that he had committed “serious offences involving a number of different victims, some particularly vulnerable.” The judge sentenced Mr Eaton to an 8 month jail sentence and ordered him to pay almost £4000 in legal costs and compensation to his victims.
When it comes to drafting a will or setting up a trust, many people worry about the potential costs involved. This is why services provided by un-qualified individuals such as Mr Eaton, or un-regulated businesses, can be an attractive alternative.
However there are substantial risks associated with this approach, as was shown in this case. The quality of the legal documents provided is often far lower than if the will or trust deed was drafted by a fully qualified solicitor. This can mean people are left with poorly-worded documents with unenforceable terms that aren’t worth the paper they are written on.
Kristel Clarke, one of the Wills and Trusts Solicitors at Canter Levin & Berg in Liverpool says that for many elderly people, it can be difficult to know who to go to for professional advice about making a will. Kristel and her colleagues from the Wills and Probate department at Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors provide legal advice to people looking to draw up a will or who need help setting up a trust.
We run legal advice clinics at the Age UK offices in Runcorn, Widnes, St Helens and Warrington, offering local people an easy and convenient way to get face-to-face legal advice concerning wills and probate matters from a fully qualified solicitor. All of our free appointments at our legal advice clinics are 30 minutes long and come with no obligation to purchase any of our legal products.
If you are interested in one of our Wills packages, we offer a single will from £150 inclusive of VAT and mirror wills from £210 inclusive of VAT (for both wills). There is a 5% discount on our standard profit costs if we see you at the Age UK clinic and we donate 10% of our profit costs to Age UK from the money that we receive.