Part 2 - Why use a Lawyer to Prepare your Will?
Reasons to go to lawyers to ensure your Will holds up in the end!
Why shouldn’t I prepare my own Will or go on-line and create my own? It appears far cheaper than using a qualified lawyer? Technically you can write a will on the back of a cigarette packet if you wanted to, although I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, I'm sure there would be plenty of cases of it being thrown in the rubbish by accident!
For the Will to be legally enforceable it has to be made by someone who has the capacity to do so and also signed and witnessed in a particular way. If this isn't done it will not be a valid Will. You also have to be sure that what you wish to happen with your estate is legally possible and won't cause issues for those left behind. This is even more important with the diverse variety of families we now have in society.
Marrieds or couples in a Civil Partnership are not treated the same as unmarried couples when one of the couple dies. If one person in the relationship dies and they are not married, the survivor does not automatically become entitled to anything from the estate, unless there is a valid Will. What happens if there are step children of a couple? What about future care arrangements for the survivor and will this effect who gets a property? Are there any dependants for example a disabled person that will require assistance and care in the future? What are the tax ramifications if you decide to leave some of your estate to a Charity or everything to your partner? Should you be concerned that your partner may change their Will following your death, excluding your children?
A qualified lawyer is not only trained in assessing whether you have the capacity to make a will that is less likely to be challenged, but a lawyer can also guide you through all the pitfalls. They can ensure that you have a correctly prepared Will that will be enforceable should there be a disagreement after you die. Will writers are not regulated by the Law Society, so there is little protection for you or your beneficiaries, should things go wrong. There are often significant additional charges that are added to the extremely attractive price that is presented, once you get to preparing the Will, for example if a discretionary trust was required, or a right to reside for the survivor of a couple to ensure they cannot be forced out of their home. The fee quoted can very quickly escalate and in many instances, will be considerably more than a lawyer in a law firm who is heavily regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
There are other options, many charities have a Will Scheme that will either fund a basic Will or enable one to be prepared by a lawyer at a greatly reduced fee, in return for you considering leaving a legacy to them in the Will. If your estate is very straightforward, leaving everything to your spouse or civil partner then to the children, and there are no complications such as second families or a business and there are no Inheritance tax planning needs, there is no reason you cannot deal with the Will yourself, explore a charity scheme or utilise an on-line provider, provided you ensure the will is drafted and executed correctly. However, if you share a property with someone other than your spouse or civil partner, you have a business or foreign property, there are step children involved or other dependants such as disabled family members or you believe someone may try and make a claim against the estate then always seek independent qualified legal advice in preparing your Will.
The cost to the estate of any claim that is made, whether by someone who believes they have some entitlement or because the Will was incorrectly drafted can be significant and can reach the tens of thousands very rapidly. This is money that would have gone to the beneficiaries so they will lose out and your wishes may not be honoured. Qualified lawyers may charge slightly more on the face of it but you will have peace of mind that things will have been dealt with correctly and that your wishes have been recorded correctly, thus preventing issues arising in the future.
Remember No Will = No Choice and if your will is anything more than a very basic one, seek independent legal advice from a specialist lawyer. The cost in the long run not just financially but emotionally too, will be worth it, for you and your loved ones.
If you are looking at legal services to help make your will, JustBeagle carry details of fixed fee services from firms that can help.