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You may have already heard of Universal Wealth Management, but, if you haven’t, there’s plenty you can read about them in the headlines. However, the case has recently come to light again, as the company’s owners have been arrested in connection to a number of offenses – and families are wondering if they will ever see their hard-earned cash again.
As a bit of background, Universal Wealth Management was an Ipswich-based company, owned by Melanie and Steve Long, who promised to help people avoid expensive care home fees. The idea was to bury cash and assets into trusts, which promised to protect families from the tax man, but also left enough to pay charges should individuals be admitted to residential care.
There’s an old saying that says, if something is too good to be true, then it generally is. Whilst the Longs’ scheme sounded a really great way to protect wealth and family assets, many disgruntled clients of theirs are now concerned that their cash and assets are tied up – worse that payments have been stopped to care facilities without any prior notice.
Universal Wealth Management ran a number of seminars and workshops, which targeted unsuspecting families into signing Wills, putting LPAs in place and creating trusts. They would then transfer their respective shares of the property into the trusts.
The Wills and LPAs are stored by the company, but now many worried families are concerned as to how to get them back – particularly now that the company seems to have folded and there is no reply to calls or post.
According to a recent posting on the Universal story, Steve and Melanie Long have been released on extended bail until mid-July. The deeds of property have been seized by Suffolk Police for the purposes of securing them and they are working with the SRA to come up with a way of sorting through them, should solicitors request them on behalf of their clients affected by Universal. The Land Registry is also aware.
The shocking thing about this case is that the inheritance planning industry is still not regulated – despite the red tape associated with a number of financial planning and investment advice, and the associated laws designed to protect consumers. Anyone can set themselves up as an estate planner or will writer – and the lack of regulation can be truly devastating, as we have seen from the Universal Wealth example.
Sadly, for people affected by this story, we need to be realistic about the recovery of the cash. It will be devastating, as some people had hundreds of thousands of pounds that are tied up and remain inaccessible. This just goes to show the scale of the fraud and how badly people, and their families, will be affected.
If you have been affected, we can help. We are already assisting a number of clients in this case, both in an attempt to recover assets, but also with land registry titles. Contact us if you would like further information.