BBC One’s Rip Off Britain investigates with SFE’s help
Families are being left in financial limbo after a decision their parents made to protect their inheritance backfired.
Some unregulated firms are pushing homeowners to put property and cash into trusts with a promise this will protect assets from care home fees and inheritance tax. Often this is complicated and costly, leaving people with hefty bills if it goes wrong.
With more and more people raising concerns about the issue, BBC One’s Rip Off Britain turned to SFE Regional Director Jade Gani - Solicitor and Head of Private Client at Meadows Ryan Solicitors – for advice.
Jade warns that these complex financial arrangements can be entirely unsuitable for many families and often legal advice is being given by unqualified salespeople with no expertise in this area.
“Often the problems with this area, known as estate planning, don’t arise until it’s too late to correct them. By the time they’re discovered the individual involved has died or lost the mental capacity to make their own decisions. People don’t realise they’ve had bad advice until they need to rely on it and at that point, the family has few options and they tend to be time consuming, expensive and emotionally draining.”
Choosing the right adviser is paramount to getting the right legal advice for your circumstances. So, how do you do that?
Opt for a regulated legal professional
Choose someone regulated. If it’s a solicitor, look for someone by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or Law Society of Scotland (LSS).
If it’s a financial adviser, they must be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Look for the right qualifications, expertise and experience
You wouldn’t go to your GP for heart surgery and the same principle applies to legal advice. Find someone who specialises in this area of the law by looking out for additional accreditation from SFE or STEP (or ideally both). This shows the solicitor has undertaken rigorous additional learning and exams in these specific areas of the law. Full STEP members will have the letters TEP in their email signature after their name.
Ask how much experience the person has had in this area. Have they dealt with matters similar to yours in the past? It’s worth noting that fully accredited members of SFE must have at least three years of experience under their belt and spend at least half their time on this area of the law.
When choosing a financial adviser, you could also look out for accreditation from the Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA).
Think about your situation
How complex are your needs or affairs? Is there a person in vulnerable circumstances involved? The more complex, the more important it is to find the right specialist to assist you.
If you have any doubts or concerns, speak to another professional for a second opinion.
Take note of the advice you receive
If an adviser is promising something that sounds ‘too-good-to-be-true’, it probably is. No single solution will achieve everything - there is always a bit of give and take with estate planning. The key is deciding which bits you’re willing to give on, and which you aren’t.
Do you understand all the information you’re being given, and any documents you’ve been sent? If not, don’t sign anything and seek clarification / alternative advice.
You can find an SFE accredited solicitor here: https://sfe.legal/find-a-lawyer/ or call 0844 567 6173
Watch the episode of Rip Off Britain here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00177vp