There are pros and cons to everything, and what’s right for one person does not always suit another. Wills are no different.
Over recent weeks there has been a rise in the number of people seeking advice on making a Will and looking at where to go to or who to ask for advice. There are a few options:
- Make a Will online
- Use a professional Will Writing service
- Use a solicitor
Making a Will online, often referred to as a Do It Yourself (DIY) Will is becoming increasingly popular, often seen by people as an easy, low cost option. But not all DIY Wills are created equal, they can vary quite dramatically in the levels of service available. Some sites do not offer legal advice, whilst others have future charges that need to be considered. The final result can be a Will based on the answers given to prescribed questions. Individual circumstances and needs are not always taken into account
Low cost online Wills can serve a purpose for some people, but if a client has been divorced, has a new partner, has multiple properties, owns their own business, has a complex family structure or has recently inherited a large sum of money – all types of circumstances can affect what is required to be considered in making their Will, and a DIY Will can be a risk.
Basic errors can be easily made when submitting a Will which may lead to problems later down the line - ambiguous wording, spelling errors and mis-spellings of names are all common errors that can lead to probate issues and contesting of Wills. Even the legal significance of some words can be interpreted differently if people are not aware of the context in which they should be used.
With more and more people attempting to write their own Will, the validity of legal documents being disputed are on the rise – leaving loved ones in acrimonious court battles which can result in Wills even being declared invalid.
According to research by Direct Line Life Insurance, more than 12.6m people would be prepared to go to courts to dispute a Will.
In 2017, there were 8,159 caveats registered to block a grant of probate. Direct Line says people are registering caveats for such concerns as whether the Will is legal, whether the deceased was of sound mind or as a result of disputes over who applied for a grant of probate.
If family members or friends are not a beneficiary, and they believe they should be, then it’s possible they could probe the Will for any weakness, and this is where a DIY could fall foul. Whether it’s poor wording or if something has been missed, if it can be challenged then it could go to court and potentially take months to settle.
An essential aspect of writing a Will is mental capacity and being of sound mind. When dealing with an adviser or will writer, then procedures are in place to ensure full capacity, this is not so easy with a DIY Will. Having a Will professionally written ensures that the client understands how their assets will be disposed, as well as an understanding of the effect of the Will and an appreciation of any possible claims against their estate. All important aspects if the Will is ever contested in court.
Creating an LPA is an additional procedure that can help ensure everything is handled as the client wishes should they become unable to make decisions themselves. But if this element is not in place and an unhappy family member decides to question mental capacity at Probate stage, then the situation can become stressful and complicated very quickly.
Essential planning for the future
Drafting a Will without using professional Will Writers can be a risk. The value of an estate can often be much more than a client anticipates, and investing in the right advice to get the best Will in place should be the obvious choice for what’s at risk.
Just as people plan for their retirement, planning their Will and estate can have huge benefits for their loved ones, and sometimes a DIY Will can incur more hassle later down the line.
Key questions for a client to consider if they know the answers to before making a DIY Will:
- What happens if a Beneficiary dies before you?
- What is the role of an Executor and how does this differ from a Trustee?
- How do you describe a particular gift in your Will so that it’s legally effective?
- What happens to jointly owned property, bank accounts and possessions?
- Who has a right to challenge the Will after your death?
- What happens if a Beneficiary inherits under the age of 18?
- What are the rules around appointing a guardian for young children?
- What Inheritance Tax issues should I consider?
The final signing of the Will - essential
A Will must also be signed and witnessed correctly, this in itself can cause a Will to be invalid if not done correctly. In line with social distancing guidance, whilst it’s not as easy, there are ways of getting a document witness and signed, have a read here of what can be considered.
What are the options you can give your client?
If you are a financial adviser, you have the opportunity to take control of your client’s need for a Will. You can either introduce your client to us, and we do everything, keeping you updated at every stage, and you receive part of the fee.
Or you can become a BTWC Associate, and have full access to our training and support materials in order for you to take the initial Will details yourself. The benefits of this is that you continue to build on client loyalty, you can spot further financial planning opportunities dependent on the information they provide and you generate a higher income level.
There are also other opportunities such as Lasting Powers of Attorney, inheritance tax advice, and trusts and Probate, all of which form part of Estate Planning opportunities within your existing client base.
We provide full technical support, answering and advising on any questions, and we will pull together the final official documents required for your client, ensuring everything is valid and legal.