Staying on the right side of the Law

Back in June, we reported the story of Universal Wealth. The story surfaced to the front of my mind again at the weekend when I read a comment on the legalities around offering advice that is outside of your professional expertise.

At the time, Universal Wealth’s owners, Melanie and Steve Long, faced fraud charges after they set up a scheme that endeavoured to avoid having to pay care fees and to simplify the administration of an estate. It left many people out of pocket and families are now left re-building their lives.

Both the company and the couple continue to be investigated by Suffolk Police. Not only were the Longs caught up in the Universal Wealth scandal, they appear also to be involved or have a connection to other companies under the Universal brand. These included Universal Tax Solutions, Universal Asset Protection and Universal Trustees Ltd. It seems all of these companies are now being investigated, following the Long’s suspected fraudulent handling of families’ wealth and assets.

Where has it all gone wrong?
Universal Wealth Management ran a number of seminars and workshops, which targeted unsuspecting families into signing Wills, putting LPAs in place and creating trusts. However, the company folded before many people could get their money out and a number of families are now left in the aftermath. Many have invested life savings into the scheme in the hope it would protect them or their loved ones in later life, but it wasn’t to be.

Suspecting foul play
As we mentioned in our previous blog, anyone can seemingly set themselves up as an estate planner or Will writer. However, this lack of regulation could be responsible for the financial devastation of many families.

The comment I read quite rightly highlighted that qualified solicitors are just that. They are regulated and insured professionals in their field, but they aren’t allowed to offer advice or representation outside of that knowledge. The comment that reminded me of the Universal Wealth story was saying that the privilege of advising on such matters you know nothing about appears to be reserved for the unqualified and uninsured offering ‘legal services’.

Sadly, those affected by the Universal Wealth scandal, may never recover their cash or the fees paid for the ‘advice’ and documentation prepared this in itself costing thousands of pounds. This will be devastating, as some people have hundreds of thousands of pounds that are tied up and remain inaccessible. This just goes to show the potential scale of the fraud and how badly people, and their families, will be affected.

If you require some legal advice in relation to this, make sure you contact the right expert to guide you through the legal process. Contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

More blog posts from this author

Getting a joint account with children will not get around an LPA

Someone approached me recently and said they’d been thinking about some later life planning - always music to my ears. However, this individual said they didn’t feel ready for a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and neither did their son, and asked if a joint bank account would instead provide an alternative solution. On the surface, this seemed acceptable, but from a legal perspective, it could prove to be a minefield.

The Universal fraudsters strike again - but it could be possible to recover assets

Way back in 2018, we reported the case of Universal Wealth - a company owned by Melanie and Steve Long, who faced fraud charges after they set up a scheme designed to avoid paying care fees and simplify the administration of an estate. Instead, all it did was leave people out of pocket.

The Kate Garraway story that brought home the reality of planning ahead

If you were one of many who turned in to Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway's heart-breaking story about her husband's battle with Coronavirus, like me, you were probably sympathising with Kate and admiring her for her honesty. However, I think this has made us think about the need to plan ahead and about our own circumstances and how we would cope in similar circumstances.

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