Questions of Cash – August 2013

Posted on October 29, 2013 · Posted in The Independent

Q.  I hired a car from the Marbesol hire car company in Spain from 14 to 24 July, collecting the car from Malaga airport.  I paid the hire costs with my American Express card, for which I have been charged £263.83.  The deposit was lodged separately through a Visa debit card on my Co-operative Bank current account.  I was debited £710.94, but after the car was returned undamaged my account was credited with only £669.93.  The £41.01 difference seems excessive and beyond what I could have expected from currency fluctuations or currency exchange charges.  When I hired cars previously the deposit was authorised but not processed and would only have been called upon if the car had been damaged.  I’ve emailed Marbesol asking for an explanation, but I’ve had no reply.  AN, Northern Ireland.

 

A  Marbesol also failed to respond to our enquiry.  However, The Co-operative Bank has agreed to fully refund your loss.  A spokeswoman for the bank said: “The car hire firm processed [the reader’s] deposit in an unusual way. They have charged the account for the deposit and then refunded it, rather than following the usual practice, which is to do an authorisation request, reserving the funds but not processing the payment.  In common with other card issuers, we do make a charge for non-sterling transactions and our charge is 2.75 per cent. This charge is in line with the industry, with other providers charging up to 2.99 per cent plus a purchase fee of £1 in some cases.   As the car hire firm took the unusual step of processing the deposit, the account was debited and then subsequently credited therefore both of these transactions incurred the 2.75 per cent fee, which is what has largely led to the £41.01 being deducted from the funds that were returned – a small amount was due to the exchange rate moving between the purchase and refund dates. Due to the circumstances, we will refund the £41.01 as a gesture of goodwill.”

Q.  My late mother’s will was drafted by HSBC. It was written in a very unorthodox way, providing beneficiaries with percentages of the total estate.  This was not what my mother intended.  A residuary beneficiary who should have got nothing was awarded £300,000.  We took this to court and our total legal costs were £134,000.  Our solicitor said it is the worst drafted will that he has seen in 14 years of dealing with probate.  He wrote: “The will was drafted in such a way as to refer specifically to particular designated investments rather than dealing with the estate by way of, for example, pecuniary legacies and percentage shares. What is clear is that the deceased wanted the survivors in each clause to benefit before the residuary beneficiary.  It is my view that unless the significant risks were made plain to the deceased, for which there is no proof, that this is an extremely cavalier way in which to tackle drafting a will since the slightest of change to the investments can lead to a manifestly different devolution of the estate on death.”  We have had five years of utter hell, a family rift and financial stress. My mother paid for a professional service that she did not receive.  As a lay person, my mother could not be expected to understand the complexities of will drafting – that is what she paid HSBC £15,500 for.  My father worked for HSBC, tackled an armed robber at the bank, for which he was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for bravery and a Binney award – he was shot in the leg.  He is so disillusioned by HSBC’s treatment of him and the family that he wants to return the medals and has contacted Buckingham Palace about doing this.  SO, by email.

 

A.  HSBC charged £15,460.68 for administering the estate, not for writing the will – which was written by a solicitor employed by HSBC’s predecessor bank, the Midland.  A spokesman for HSBC says: “The Bank’s duty was to write a will that accurately recorded [the reader’s mother’s] instructions. It is satisfied that it did so.”   Some years after the will was written, the nature of your mother’s assets changed substantially, but unfortunately her will did not reflect this.  HSBC points out it “had no involvement or input” in the changing character of the assets.  The will was written in 1993 and your mother died in 2006.  HSBC explains that the will was contested in court, leading to a consensual agreement between beneficiaries and an increase in your inheritance.  HSBC was not a party to that case.  After we submitted a new complaint to HSBC on your behalf, it conducted an internal review, which concluded that the bank had acted “appropriately”.  We then contacted the Law Society, which suggested that a complaint be submitted to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.  We asked the SRA to investigate.  However, it concluded that as the solicitor concerned was employed and not acting as an independent professional, it was unable to adjudicate. A spokesman explained: “We regulate solicitors and employees of solicitor’s firms and do not regulate will-writers who work for banks and we have no statutory jurisdiction to do so.”  A solicitor working for a bank is acting on behalf of the bank and is therefore not subject to professional regulation in that role.  Further, the SRA does not carry out investigations of conduct more than six months old.  This leaves the dispute in a very unsatisfactory situation.  The SRA supports the Legal Services Board’s proposal to the Government to make will writing a reserved legal activity.  If this were done, it would potentially provide an avenue of recourse where there is a complaint on the quality of will writing – as there quite often is.  Your situation underlines the importance for any person making a will that they fully understand the will and its implications, that they have full confidence in the will writer and that the will is updated when there is a significant change in circumstance.