Trust firm’s fate leaves thousands in the dark

Company with links to failed funeral plan provider Safe Hands faces administration, leaving thousands of customers unsure as to whether their savings are secure

  • Estate planning company Philips Trust Corporation’s accounts are overdue
  • Founder Richard Philip Wells is a director of SHP Capital, owner of Safe Hands
  • An update to clients was promised last Friday but none was given 

A company with links to failed funeral plan provider Safe Hands is expected to go into administration this week, leaving thousands of customers unsure as to whether their savings are secure. 

Estate planning company Philips Trust Corporation (PTC), whose accounts are overdue, offers will writing services, probate administration, inheritance tax planning and funeral plans. It also manages trusts on behalf of clients. 

Such trusts can help ensure assets are readily available to children when their parents die, rather than getting them caught up in lengthy probate procedures. 

In the dark: So far, there is no indication that customers’ trust funds are compromised by PTC teetering on the edge of administration

So far, there is no indication that customers’ trust funds are compromised by PTC teetering on the edge of administration.

Yet in January this year, the Association of Corporate Trustees trade body found PTC in ‘serious breach’ of its code of practice and cancelled its membership. 

PTC was set up by Richard Philip Wells in late 2017. He is also a director of SHP Capital Holdings, owner of Safe Hands, which went bust last month, leaving 47,000 customers with potentially worthless funeral plans. 

As revealed in The Mail on Sunday earlier this month, the trust fund where Safe Hands’ customers’ money is held is in deficit, meaning there is insufficient money to meet the cost of all funerals promised. There are more links between PTC and Safe Hands. Although Wells relinquished control of PTC in April 2019, it was taken over by After Today, a company set up by Kay Collins, who appointed Amber Gormanly as a director of After Today in April 2019. 

She is the daughter of Tom Gormanly, a director of Safe Hands until March this year. She resigned from After Today in October last year, leaving Collins as sole director. Collins is also sole director of PTC. 

Wells and Tom Gormanly were directors of Family Trust Corporation, an associate company of The Will Writing Company, which went into administration in 2018. The Will Writing Company got clients from building societies such as Leeds and Newcastle. 

As well as setting up wills, its salesmen encouraged customers to put their homes in trust via FTC to ensure they would not be sold to pay for care costs. Other investments were also put in trust. 

Philips Trust took on Family Trust’s business after The Will Writing Company went bust. According to Claire Springle, solicitor at Springle & Co in North Shields, Tyne & Wear, FTC customers were encouraged to transfer trusts to PTC with any investments managed by London-based CX Wealth. They were hit with dubious administration charges applied by PTC. 

Philips Trust stopped taking customers’ calls, instructions were not acted upon, and income payments from trusts suddenly stopped. A note on its website says it is dealing with ‘significant operational difficulties’. An update to clients was promised last Friday but none was given. Springle has been helping people caught up in the debacle. She says most should never have been advised to put their assets in trust. 

Among them is Jean Chamberlin, 74, a former office worker from Barnsley, South Yorkshire. She and her husband have been trying to revoke trusts taken out on their bungalow through Family Trust. 

Since PTC took over, they were asked to pay management fees (which they refused to do) and a ‘tax status’ charge (which they did).

When they asked for the trusts to be revoked in June last year, they were told to pay a £740 exit fee. They did, but nothing happened. 

A PTC action group on Facebook has 300 members. Springle says she has been ‘heartbroken’ by the conversations she has had with customers, many in their 80s and 90s, adding: ‘These people thought they were putting their financial affairs in good order. But they have been let down.’ 

She says the building societies who pushed customers the way of PTC via The Will Writing Company should share some of the blame for what has happened. 

So what do the key players have to say? 

LAST week, The Mail on Sunday sought comments from those embroiled in Philips Trust Corporation. 

We contacted Kay Collins of PTC by phone and email but got no response. Chris Cauvain of CX Wealth said: ‘I can assure you the assets we manage [on behalf of PTC] exist. We fully expect to return all capital plus interest due to PTC clients or any administrators when it falls due. We will co-operate fully to give PTC clients much needed reassurance.’ 

Leeds Building Society confirmed it had introduced members seeking wills and trusts to The Estate Planning Group, comprising The Will Writing Company (TWWC) and Family Trust Corporation (FTC). It said any advice given by the firms was independent of the society and not shared with it. 

Leeds added: ‘Late last year, we started to receive correspondence from members unable to contact Philips Trust. We have never had a relationship with PTC, or any influence over them, but we are concerned by the problems encountered by customers.’ 

Newcastle Building Society said that since the demise of TWWC, it had ‘operated a dedicated support team, responding to all queries relating to the company on a case-by-case basis’. 

Tom Gormanly, former director of TWWC and Safe Hands, said: ‘There is a lot of bad comment online about Philips from a customer service perspective.’ 

Yesterday, commenting on Safe Hands, Richard Wells said: ‘It is with deep and sincere regret that Safe Hands is in this position.’