Free / cheap Wills – What’s the catch?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, around 6 in 10 of the UK population do not have a valid Will according to Which?, the consumer magazine. For those who do choose to make a Will, there are a wide range of options, from using professional solicitors, to free / cheap Wills offered by charities, Will-writing services, to an off-the-shelf DIY version. Lucy Duffin, explains the pros and cons of each. Facing up to one’s mortality is never an easy thing to do, but nevertheless makes things far less stressful for loved ones when the time comes.
Obviously as a firm of solicitors, we would advocate the professional option but, if you do choose to use one of the other alternatives, you should at least have your eyes open to the potential issues which could occur and the pros and cons of each option, which will obviously vary depending on your own individual circumstances.
Pros of using a Solicitor
- Protection & Regulation –Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and abide by strict codes of conduct. Solicitors also have professional insurance to protect you should anything go awry.
- Expertise – to anticipate issues which could potentially arise which a layperson wouldn’t always foresee. Wills can be complex documents and many DIY Wills fall short of adequate drafting, which can invalidate them, cause unanticipated outcomes as to who benefits, be problematic in administering and also be easily challenged by outsiders. Litigation over Wills can be extremely costly to your Estate, far outweighing the costs of having a Will drafted properly in the first place!
- Advice – from tax advice, to dealing with family discord, sometimes it can be helpful to have a professional who is impartial involved and can identify conflicts of interest or potential complexities, which lay persons cannot.
- Peace of mind – knowing that the Will has been drawn up correctly can make relationships between beneficiaries easier at a later stage and also give you confirmation that your affairs are in good shape for the future.
Will writing companies will typically offer their services more cheaply than solicitors, but there are some significant differences between them. Will writing companies are unregulated so you do not have the same level of protection if there is an issue with the Will. The main difference between Will Writers and solicitors is that while anyone can become a Will writer, solicitors must be chartered lawyers with training and expertise.
Regulation of Solicitors
Solicitors operate in a regulated industry, which means that you have more rights as a customer should something go wrong with your Will. Typically, you can contact the Legal Ombudsman to complain if you’ve spoken to the solicitor directly and your concerns aren’t addressed. There are also a lot of rogue Will writers who given the lack of regulation, often take instructions but never finish the work, or produce inadequate documents. These documents are usually only found to be ineffective at the time they are most needed!
Free charity Wills
Increasingly, charities are offering free / cheap Wills. It is obviously expected that you will leave a sizable donation to them in return. One thing you should consider carefully is who you appoint as your Executor or Administrator and whether you choose to have a professional Executor or Administrator. Professional appointments are not in themselves necessarily a bad thing, but the person making the Will should understand what they are agreeing to, and the process must be transparent. It should never be a condition of having a Will drawn up that the writer is also the Executor.
Also worth noting is that charities now often have entire departments dedicated to searching Wills on the Registry that mention them as beneficiaries and then attempting to negotiate the maximum benefit for themselves from the Estate. The type of Will you have can help your Executors deal with these enquiries and advice of this kind can be provided by a solicitor at the time of making your Will. Appointing a professional Executor as the person who then liaises with the charities at the relevant time, can also be helpful in ensuring a smooth administration of your Estate, which stays in keeping with your wishes!
Benefits of a professional Executor
If the Estate is simple, a professional Executor may not be necessary, but if it involves a business, there are no family or friends to take on the role of Executor, or there is a chance the Will could be contested, it is also sensible to appoint a professional Executor. Sometimes estranged families can make the Probate process incredibly difficult, in these circumstances, having an impartial professional to handle things it can definitely help to prevent the situation deteriorating.
Obviously one of the cheapest options, but with that ‘pro’ come some potentially very serious ‘cons’. What seems like an easy way to save money can mean that you cause real heartache for your loved ones after you have died, should you get anything wrong. It is also important to realise that there is no opportunity for any legal reparations if you use a DIY template kit and things go wrong.
There is a reason that solicitors are required to undertake thorough training before they are able to practice and produce legal documents. Lay persons will not have had the same training and experience and will not consider the Will instructions in the same manner as a solicitor, who can advise holistically on the tax implications, any complexities, potential risks and pitfalls and also how difficult family affairs can be best dealt with. Free / cheap Wills certainly have significant drawbacks and given the significance of a Will, it is worth getting it right!
Get in touch
If you would like to speak to one of our team about making a Will, we would be delighted to hear from you. Call us on 01872 241408 or email email@example.com For information about our pricing.