Banks reform sale of will-writing and executor services

A gavel People can pay thousands of pounds for a professional executor

The big four High Street banking groups have agreed to reform the way they sell will-writing and executor services.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said customers were in danger of appointing banks as executors without understanding the possible costs.

When people die, executors are those who sort out the finances according to the dead person's wishes.

An OFT survey found that 43% of people appointed their will-writer or solicitor as their executor.

However, the law does not state that a professional must be appointed as an executor.

"The wrong decision when appointing executors could mean a potentially expensive professional service is chosen, when a family member or friend may be quite capable of handling the task either alone or with professional support," the OFT said.

"We are pleased that each of the banks has agreed to review its selling practices and marketing literature to ensure customers are getting the information they need to make informed choices."

Shop around

The regulator pointed out that people can pay between £3,000 and £9,000 for a professional executor to sort out an average sized estate after their death.

The OFT estimated that people were spending £40m a year too much on executor services because they failed to shop around.

Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS - the only banks to offer will-writing and executor services to their customers - have agreed:

  • to ensure clients who make a will are not misled into thinking they must appoint a professional executor
  • not to encourage clients to appoint professional executors unless it is "clearly in their best interests"
  • to make sure clients understand their choices before their will is drafted

The agreement comes after discussions last year with the OFT. Any changes to the banks' policies must be in place within six months.

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