TRADING standards officials have launched a formal investigation into a York financial services firm whose offices have closed, leaving a widow fearing she is thousands of pounds out of pocket.

City of York Council revealed that its trading standards department had so far received 36 complaints about Yorkshire Asset Protection (YAP), whose closure was reported by The Press last week.

The newspaper has also received more than half a dozen calls and emails from readers worried about their own dealings with the firm. Several said they had paid YAP to draw up their wills and put the signed documents in storage, and they had so far been unable to retrieve the papers.

The Press reported last Tuesday how Lynda Madden and her late husband Noel had paid £6,500 to YAP for a joint funeral plan after he became terminally ill, so they could have “complete peace of mind” by paying for his funeral at a fixed cost after he died.

Mrs Madden, of Stamford Bridge, said then that more than three weeks after his death from cancer, she feared she would be left picking up the funeral bill of more than £3,000 after the firm’s city-centre offices in New Street closed down and staff stopped answering the phone.

Extensive efforts by The Press to contact the firm for comment were unsuccessful, with its telephone numbers suspended.

But its website said it offered “specialist advice” and “bespoke solutions” for people’s estate planning needs.

It said: “Our aim is to make inheritance planning and wealth protection accessible and affordable to everyone.”

Mrs Madden said yesterday she was increasingly concerned about the fate of will documents which she and her husband had lodged with YAP for safekeeping.

She said she had discovered that her unsigned copy of the will had no legal status, and her husband’s death would be treated as intestate – as if there was no will – unless the original signed document was returned. She said this was now causing huge legal and financial problems.

Readers who have contacted The Press include one man from Huntington who said he had spent £900 on wills with YAP, which offered a “lifetime storage facility” and had the original documents.

Two other people both said they had paid YAP almost £1,000 for it to draw up and store their wills, and they had so far been unable to contact anyone to retrieve the original documents.