Eleven good reasons why we should all make a Will

1 To avoid dying intestate:

Intestate means you have not left a Will after your death. The result of this is that your assets will be distributed as per the laws of intestacy. You could assume that this would mean your husband/wife would inherit everything – not necessarily! Your estate could be contested by children and/or family resulting in the sale of the family home in order to claim the financial rewards. Not having a Will will also mean delays in the distribution of your estate and could cause needless financial hardship for your family.

2 Appointing Guardians for your children:

If the worst happens to you while you still have children under the age of 18 and you have not appointed legal Guardians, Social Services may make the decision for you which could mean either being placed with someone you would not have chosen or your children ending up with foster parents.

3 Appointing Executors:

You should choose someone you trust to be responsible. If not, they will be chosen following strict guidelines and may not be suitable for the role. Instead, your family could appoint professionals who would charge to carry out this service which would reduce your total estate amount to be left to your family.

4 Minimising Inheritance Tax:

Every year the taxman collects in excess of £3 billion. You can seriously reduce the amount of 40% tax you would have to pay or even eliminate it altogether with a properly written Will.

5 Preventing your home being sold to pay for Nursing Home fees:

Statistics show 70,000 homes a year must be sold to meet care costs. With advice and careful planning your estate can be protected for your loved ones.

6 If you are not married:

If you have a partner but choose to be unmarried, they may not receive any of your estate unless you write them into your Will.

7 Providing you with peace of mind:

By writing a Will, you can leave your estate to who you want. This may include something for friends or charities. You may also have children from a previous relationship who may otherwise have been overlooked.

8 Preventing unnecessary expense and delays:

The administration of your estate with your Will and grant of probate is a far quicker and cheaper process than if you do not have a Will. You will also save money by not paying additional bank and solicitors fees and your loved ones will be spared additional stress and worry at such a difficult time.

9 Preventing certain members of your family benefiting when others would not:

Not all family life is plain sailing and, in your Will, you choose who will receive what.

10 Preventing the state inheriting all your assets:

If you do not have any remaining close family then unless you write a Will, the state will inherit your assets.

11 Preventing disputes:

Writing a Will should avoid any unnecessary difficulties with your beneficiaries who may feel some are more deserving than others.

What happens if you dont?

Your family will be left to sort out your affairs which could be a lengthy, costly and stressful process.

  • Your spouse may not receive all your estate.
  • Your children will have the authority to sell assets (i.e. the family home) in order to access their inheritance.
  • Social Services will decide what happens to your children.
  • HM Revenue and Customs receive all the tax you could have avoided, and your family receive considerably less.
  • Your bank and/or solicitor will charge considerably more to sort out your unorganised affairs.
  • Your friends and charities will receive nothing.

Who should make the Will?

Doing it yourself:

DIY Will packs are readily available from retailers, or you can write one yourself. However, you would not receive professional help or advice if doing this and could end up not distributing your assets in the most economical way. Your Will may not be worded correctly and could be contested. If you get it wrong, it will be your beneficiaries who are affected, and they can’t ask what you meant after you are gone.

Doing it Online:

You have your Will written for you by an online provider. They collect your instructions and from this, draft your Will. This approach lacks the personal touch, and you may not end up with the detailed Will you required.

Doing it through your Solicitor:

Unless your Solicitor is ‘STEP’ qualified, they may not be specialists in Will writing. Law is by definition an extensive and complex subject, and many solicitors choose to practice in other areas. The Law Society also no longer insists that Solicitors sit exams in Will writing and it is worth remembering not everyone who works in a Solicitors is a Solicitor.

You will probably also find that your Solicitor does not operate on a ‘fixed fee’ structure, rather an hourly rate, so it could be costly. Alternatively, your Solicitor may offer a ‘loss leader’ rate providing you appoint them as your executors, which could end up costing you thousands of pounds. A member of your family or a friend you trust with this responsibility can do this for you.

Doing it through your Bank:

Your bank will either send you a form or an official will take your instructions which is then passed on to a processing centre. This option is unlikely to offer any personal advice on how to structure your Will so you may end up with a Will not best suited to your needs. Banks that appoint themselves as your executors could take as much as 5% of your estate in fees after you die.

And finally. Doing it through a professional Will writer:

A Will writer will take your instructions, give you advice as required and then draft your Will according to those needs. Most will visit you at home at hours to suit you. The important thing is to ensure your Will writer is properly qualified – ask to see their qualifications. Will writers have professional indemnity insurance, subscribe to a Code of Practice and be a member of a professional body (which would have an independent complaints procedure, should the need arise).

Things to watch out for: Beware of ‘special offers’. Often these are advertised in the hope that you will purchase ‘additional extras’ which would prove costly. An example would be if they offer to become your executor or offer to assist in the administration of your estate after you are gone. Many require payment up front – leaving you to wonder what would happen if the company no longer existed after your death?

Costs of making a Will. Do not get caught out with VAT – ask if the quote includes it. Factors to consider include How complicated your requirements are, how qualified your Will writer is – a fully qualified Will writer is required to undergo ongoing training and will therefore be more expensive that someone who is not qualified. You also need to factor in how much advice you need/get and the explanation of it once your Will is written. Make sure you have a supervisor to ensure your Will is signed and witnessed correctly.

A summary of what to ask your Will provider:

  • What qualifications have their staff passed in preparing wills?
  • How many hours compulsory training per year do their staff complete in preparing wills?
  • Do they have professional indemnity insurance?
  • Do they provide details of all their fees in advance of the appointment?
  • Do they provide advice to tailor your will to your exact circumstances?
  • Do they provide advice to minimise inheritance tax and shelter assets from long term care?
  • Do they provide a two-visit system to ensure the will is signed and witnessed correctly?
  • Do they provide an independent system of redress if the client is dissatisfied?
  • Are they working to a Code of Practice with independent approval – such as from the OFT?