The Insolvency Service has closed down a dubious will-writing operation involving three closely linked companies in the East Midlands.

The companies - Minster Legal Services, Legal Assistance Ltd and Legal Assistance 4 U Ltd - used telesales staff to cold-call consumers across the UK. Prospects were persuade to arrange a home visit by a self-employed "legal consultant", who would then try to sell them the companies' products, including will-writing and trusts.

Irregularities in the companies' accounts brought them to the attention of the Insolvency Service, which then examined their trading activities. The investigators found a battery of misdemeanours.

The main company, Minster, had been set up in April 2010 by two Lincolnshire men. It was trading in a manner "which was misleading and contrary to the public interest", said the Insolvency Service. Some clients were sold products that were inappropriate for their circumstances, and there were long delays in handling clients' affairs. The company was not keeping proper accounting records and transferred company funds into a bank account it did not control.

The other two firms, Legal Assistance and Legal Assistance 4U, were formed later on in order to continue Minster's dubious operations. By the time the investigation was complete the group had acquired sales income of over GBP1.1 million, although Minster itself was found to be insolvent.

Last week the England & Wales High Court compulsorily wound up all three companies under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986, at the request of the Insolvency Service. 

© 2011 Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners

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