2010 - 2017
Making a Will is not about wealth it is about making sure that what you want to happen to your estate does happen. It gives you the opportunity to specify such things as who will administer your estate, who will care for your children and who will receive specific items of your property.
Will-drafting is not for the faint-hearted. It requires careful thought and clear expression. The law relating to wills and succession is very complicated and the pitfalls for the unwary are numerous.
It is often said that lawyers make more money sorting out badly drawn home-made wills than they do making properly drawn wills for their clients.
There is a large element of truth in this. Generally speaking, wills are still drawn up by solicitors for a fixed fee, which is usually a lot less than the real cost of the time involved, particularly when the responsibility factor is taken into account.
In this website you will find examples of when a solicitor-drawn will is absolutely essential; for example, when you wish to protect children with learning difficulties or to set up tax-efficient trusts.
The BBC has some useful advice for potentials will makers, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theoneshow/2009/11/how-to-write-a-will-and-a-chan.shtml
In other instances, you should be able to draw up a straightforward will if you follow the guidance in this site. Note though that, if you are in any doubt about your circumstances and what you wish to do, it is better to take professional advice.
The heartache and expense caused by badly drawn home-made wills invariably outweighs that caused by dying without any will at all.
By professional advice I mean a solicitor and preferably one who is a member of The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP for short). There are numerous companies who advertise will-writing services.
Quite often these are attached to companies selling insurance or financial services who are actually more interested in selling you their products than giving proper advice on your will. In essence, the low-cost will is a loss-leader.
The wills produced by these companies tend to vary greatly in quality; some do produce wills of a reasonable standard but others are poorly drafted. Some of these companies do use solicitors to do the actual drafting but others don't.
In fact, there is no requirement for the will-drafters to have any legal training at all. Some years ago I requested details of a franchise from a will-writing company as the firm I worked for was anxious to assess the apparent competition.
It appeared that the idea was to provide a computer with a bank of clauses and hope that the basic training given enabled the will-writer to assemble a selection of clauses into a viable will.
In short, standards of training and competence vary greatly and there is no easy way for the prospective customer to assess these things.
Other points to look out for, if approached by one of these companies, are that they frequently charge a storage fee for keeping your will safe and will often push to have themselves made executors. There are times when professional executors are a good idea but, again, a STEP member is the better choice.
This will be covered in a later in the site. Like solicitors, will-writing companies carry insurance against claims for negligent work but the value of this does depend on the company still being in existence when the time comes.