Do I really need a Will? Is it expensive?

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Wills, Trusts and Probate Lawyer, Stuart Lawrence explains

Many people are put off making a Will by the perceived costs of doing so.

But trying to save a relatively small sum of money by avoiding making a Will or using one of the Will kits available from the news agent can be a false economy.

If you don’t make a Will then your assets may not end up where you think they will. Often we see clients with no children who think if they die intestate (without a Will) then their assets will automatically go to charity. They are dismayed to find that the Law will attempt to locate distant family members who will benefit in these circumstances. Some of these family members may be unknown to them.

The TV show Heir Hunters highlights this.

As well as defining who should benefit under the terms of your Will, you can also nominate your executors and, more importantly, if you have young children, you can and should nominate guardians for them.

If you die intestate, your net estate (after expenses and costs) will be distributed between legally defined beneficiaries.

If you have a professionally drafted Will, you can nominate friends, family and charities to receive fixed sums, called legacies. Once paid, what is left over, the ‘residue’ as lawyers call it, is distributed in accordance with your instructions. You can also create trusts in your Will to protect vulnerable beneficiaries, such as young or disabled children.

There are other benefits to making a Will. A professionally drawn Will (often prepared in association with your accountant and or IFA) can help with your Inheritance Tax (IHT) liability. IHT is currently (May 2015) 40% on the excess over £325,000 for an individual, and £650,000 for a married couple, or those in a civil partnership.

Additionally, with the possibility of a little more work, a Will can help safeguard property and assets in the event the survivor of a married couple needs residential care in the future.

Each case is unique, and our specialist lawyers can advise you on what will be best in your particular circumstances.

Unqualified and unregulated ‘Will writers’ are attempting to cash in on this area of the Law and their adverts are now widespread. A few provide a reasonable service, but they are not necessarily any cheaper than a regulated firm of solicitors. However, other Will writers are unable to answer even the most basic technical questions and many have absolutely no legal qualifications. Many Will writers simply pay for a franchise and are provided with a few precedents and left to fill in the blanks.

Will writers’ initial quotes are often very low in order to entice the client in, but later you will find additional charges being made for so-called extras such as storage, which solicitors like Slee Blackwell provide for free. We know of some organisations charging as much as £5 a month to store a Will!

Many Will writers do not belong to a regulatory body or indeed carry any indemnity insurance. This is highly relevant as it means that if they make a mistake compensation may not be recoverable.

It falls to the qualified professionals to sort out the problems after the client’s death, which of course incurs additional, and in many cases unnecessary, costs when an unqualified Will writer has been involved.

We have a large ‘contested probate‘ department who are kept very busy sorting out the problems that arise when inadequate testamentary provisions are made.

And given the relatively inexpensive cost of making a Will through a firm of solicitors, there really is no need to take unnecessary risks – especially when so much is riding on it.

We are always happy to provide a fixed fee quote for preparing a Will and its usually cheaper than most people think.

Please contact your nearest office for an informal chat and to make an appointment.

Devon Offices

Barnstaple: 01271 372 128 – Toni Sinclair
Bideford: 01237 427 924 – Stuart Lawrence
Braunton: 01271 812 019 – Emily Hockin
South Molton: 01769 573 771 – John Pearn

Somerset Office

Taunton: 01823 354545 – Chris Holten