Local solicitors warn against unregulated trust advisors targeting elderly people

Lucy Butterfint, a senior solicitor with Wilkin Chapman's estates, tax and trusts department based across the Wolds offices.
Lucy Butterfint, a senior solicitor with Wilkin Chapman's estates, tax and trusts department based across the Wolds offices.

Marketing flyers advertising the work of unregulated Trust and Will advisers should be approached with caution, two leading local solicitors have warned.

Targeting elderly people, often in affluent rural areas, there are a growing number of such ‘professionals’ who have been present at recent regional events, as well as organising their own sales and marketing activities.

However, Lucy Butterfint – a senior solicitor with Wilkin Chapman’s estates, tax and trusts department based across the Wolds offices – has warned that people should be very careful before signing up.

Lucy recalls an incident at a rural event in Lincolnshire this summer that was set to cost a couple hundreds of pounds, which they did not need to pay.

Lucy said: “The couple had been approached about putting their house into Trust at a cost of £2,000.

“Unsure whether this was right, they came to see us before signing anything.”

When questioned, it emerged the couple had been asked nothing about their incomes or other assets.

Lucy continued: “It turned out they would have sufficient income to pay for any care fees and their other assets amounted to £700k (excluding the property) so they would still have been paying privately for any care even if they had put the property into a Trust.

“Also, the fact that they were 80-years-old would have meant a strong likelihood of deprivation of capital.”

In short, they did not need the Trust at all - and their visit to Lucy saved them almost all of the money.

Lucy added: “Unregulated advisers and companies will leaflet drop or hold events, targeting the more affluent areas or towns popular with older people.

“They advise people to set up trusts and often charge between three thousand and five thousand pounds when often, these are not needed.

“Unfortunately, anyone can call themselves a legal adviser and write a Will or sell a Trust package, claiming they have expertise with no legal qualifications at all.

“Just take care when planning for your future. You may think you are saving money, but if the advice given by an unregulated advisor is incorrect, like in this case, you could find yourself even more out of pocket with no redress”.

Miriam Barber, a partner with BG Solicitors based in Louth, reiterated Lucy’s warning and warned people to be vigilant.

Miriam said: “People are obviously keen to save money and to leave their assets to their children so they flock to these seminars and rush to pay the fees for services they don’t always understand.

“These companies are not regulated by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority and the ‘help’ they offer is very misleading.

“There is often the impression that if you pay them to set up a Family Trust, you will never pay care home fees. This is simply untrue. If something sounds too good to be true, in this case it definitely is.

“But unfortunately most people won’t find this out until it’s too late, and they’ll have wasted thousands on setting up a trust that will have no effect for what they want.

“I myself, as a solicitor, have seen at least three families in the last year who have paid extortionate sums for what, in the end, turns out to be useless.

“In the worst scenarios, I’ve seen people who have handed over the title deeds to their property and then the company has gone into administration, so they’ve lost their money and their deeds.

“Anyone with concerns in this area would be better off getting a fixed fee half hour of tailored legal advice from a qualified solicitor. At least then they would know they had received regulated legal advice for a reasonable fee, and could be confident of achieving the outcome they want.”

• For more information, visit www.wilkinchapman.co.uk/blog/beware-of-unregulated-trust-advisers-1 or http://www.bgsolicitors.com/Transfer_of_Assets