Posted by John Pengilley, Solicitor
Making a will – why use a lawyer?
Have you ever wondered why some Will writers charge as little as £19.99 for making a will, whereas some companies can charge over £1,000?
What is a will?
A will is a formal legal document that directs who your wealth goes to after death. It can also express your wishes on matters such as who you want to be guardians of your children.
Wills can set up trusts on your death. A trust is a structure where you choose who is responsible for looking after assets for the benefit of others. Trusts can safeguard and manage funds for young children. They can also protect assets from other life events such as a spouse remarrying, going bankrupt, or funding care fees.
To ensure that your will is tailored to your circumstances and achieves your wishes, it is recommended to use a professional lawyer.
What happens if I don’t have a will when I die?
If someone dies without a will there are laws in place which state where someone’s assets will go. These laws do not suit everyone and can have unintended consequences.
For example, for a married couple without children or living parents, but both having all siblings surviving, all of their assets will eventually pass to the siblings of the person who dies last. Nothing will go to the siblings of the person who died first.
Why do some companies charge only £19.99 for wills?
Will writing is an unregulated area of legal work, which means that you do not have to be legally qualified to write wills. Some companies only offer will templates or simple fact finding conversations to enable them to make a will for you. Whilst the wills can be made cheaply, there are things to consider:
- Potential pitfalls – sometimes, there are basic things that can cause major issues. A simple example is the treatment of step-children. Inheritance laws do not consider a step-child to be a person’s child. So if the parent wants the step-child to inherit with their other children, the will must specifically deal with this. Lawyers would advise on this
- mental capacity – if someone making a will does not have the required mental capacity to do so then the will is invalid and open to challenge. Making a will without professional help can lead to a lack of evidence to show that you had the required mental capacity at the time when you made the will. Lawyers assess mental capacity, keep a record of meetings, and seek medical evidence to affirm mental capacity where it may be in question. This can add strength to the will to help prevent successful legal challenge
- undue influence – if it can be proved that someone was coerced into making their will a certain way, their will can be challenged. Lawyers are trained to identify and assess undue influence and keep records. This can add strength to a will being challenged as the lawyer’s notes can show that the client had valid reasons for making their will that way, and they were not being coerced
- family provision claims – whilst you are free to leave your assets to whoever you wish, there are laws which help to protect certain people who would ordinarily be expected to benefit from your estate. Lawyers can make you aware of potential issues and help you to know what you can do to mitigate them
- expensive storage fees – whilst some will writing companies charge a small fee for making the wills, they can charge annual storage fees which can be significant over time. Many lawyers will charge more for making the wills, but do not charge storage fees
- insurance – a significant benefit of using lawyers is that they are insured. If they get something wrong when making your will, they have insurance which will compensate for problems caused. Using a cheaper will writing company that does not have insurance means that you do not have this protection if they get anything wrong. If you make your will yourself then there is no-one to blame if there is an error with the will
- location of your will – there are issues if you make your own will and lose it. If you make a will with a company that goes bust or has other running problems, your will can be lost or the company that now holds it may not be able to be found easily. If your will is stored with well established lawyers, you can have peace of mind that your will is not going to get lost. Royds Withy King has been around since 1873
- domicile and assets abroad – if applicable to you, this can be a complex issue and you will need advice from a lawyer
- inheritance tax and estate planning – a lawyer can offer you tailored advice on this, which can save your estate significant sums of money;
- digital wills – people often use the term “digital will” to refer to the plans that you have made to deal with digital assets, such as PayPal, Facebook, Ebay, online only bank accounts, cryptocurrency, digital photographs, music, a variety of accounts held with apps such as family history, gambling , etc. You can appoint digital executors to deal with these and it’s a good idea to keep a record of all assets and how to access them. If you don’t do this it can make it extremely difficult for your executors to deliver your wishes for how these accounts are handled. . This brings with it its own challenges – where do you safely and securely keep a record of your assets, usernames and passwords? Using a digital legacy platform such as Life Safe is one option. The highly secure portal has been created to store all these details in one place, allowing your nominated executors to access important files ,if and when, needed. It’s important to remember that some digital assets also cannot be transferred, such as some digital music, and each company has specific terms and conditions that you need to be aware of to know what needs to be done on death. Lawyers can advise you on how to deal with your digital assets.
As your will deals with all of your wealth, it makes sense to make a will professionally to ensure your wealth goes to who you want it to, in the way you want it to.
For advice on making a will please contact our Private Client team on:
0800 923 2073 Email us