Last Will and Testament

The dictionary defines a will as: “a document by which a person (called a testator) appoints executors to administer his or her estate after their death, and directs the manner in which it is to be distributed to beneficiaries specified by them”.

This is in line with most people’s understanding of the document. At its most simple, it is the instrument by which one sets out: what assets they are leaving; to whom and under whose management this distribution will take place.

What is dealt with in a will?

A will may bequeath items solely owned by the testator. It is noteworthy that items to which a relationship exists other than sole ownership e.g. pensions, jointly owned properties, may fail to enter the estate of one making a will.

In addition to leaving goods and assets, provision can be made for: guardianship of minors, funeral planning, business continuation, charitable gifts, pet care and a range of other matters.

How do I make a will?

There are three main approaches to creating a will: via an online DIY service; via a professional will writing service and via a solicitor.

DIY Services

DIY services typically cost between £15 and £30. Such processes are low in cost but comparatively high in risk. Elements of the will writing process are somewhat arcane and if managed incorrectly, may lead to failures. Commentators attribute the 60% rise in court disputes pertaining to wills, last year to the use of these services. Such battles may incur six figure fees and harm family relationships irreparably.

Professional will writers

Costing in the order of £150-£250, these are firms and individuals, typically bound to societies such as the Society of Will Writers or the Institute of Professional Will Writers, who are trained specifically in the documentation and creation of wills. They usually provide a face to face service and have the support of a legal back office for drafting, as well as appropriate insurances. Many favour this route for cost effectiveness and reliability. Always verify membership of professional bodies and insurance.

Solicitors

Charging is hourly, so fees may reach thousands of pounds. Such fees arise from simple market forces, namely that, when drafting a will with a client, solicitors commit time that might be spent on more directly lucrative activity. The approach is detailed, driven by risk aversion (a good thing) and usually of a high a standard.

For clarity, Legal firms occasionally offer a lower cost service. These offers tend to rely on, for example, paralegals rather than solicitors, to achieve such fees. This is not the same as a solicitor driven service.

Individuals with whom you deal in creating this critical document, should always be questioned on personal training and possibly membership (rather than affiliation) of professional bodies. An under qualified drafter failing to grasp your wishes may lead to trouble later.