What is a Will and why should you write one?
A Will is an important legal document in which the Will maker (also known as a testator) can state how they would like their belongings (assets, chattels and property) to be distributed when they are no longer around. The document also gives specified people (called executors) the power to handle the estate after the Will Maker’s death.
A Will is ordinarily revoked by any new Will or by marriage. It can be used to appoint guardians for minor children and prevents someones estate passing in accordance with the laws of intestacy. These laws or rules govern what will happen to someones ‘things’ if they died without a Will. More information on Intestacy can be found here.
There are a number of reasons why you may wish to write a Will. Here are some of the most common reasons:
- You’ve got divorced and no longer wish for your ex-spouse to inherit on your death
- You’ve had a child or become a grandparent and would like to make provision for the child. In the case of a child, you may wish to appoint guardians for the infant
- If you’ve inherited money yourself, you might want to consider a Will to mitigate any tax you might be liable for or to ensure it passes to your intended beneficiaries
- Marriage revokes a Will. You may have written a Will before you got married but this could be revoked if there is no provision for a new Will
- To make provision for your favourite charity
- To provide you with peace of mind
- Being able to make plans for your funeral
If you have lots of lower value items that you would like to leave in your Will you might be advised to list these in a letter of wishes. A letter of wishes is not binding on your trustees but is easier to make changes to than having to change your Will every time you want to change a gift. Your letter of wishes should be kept with your Will.
Who can write a Will?
The truth is, anyone can write a Will. You could get a Will kit from a stationery store and write your Will but you would be missing out on expert advice specific to your circumstances and if something went wrong your would have no course to redress. Practically, you ought to consider getting a professional to write your Will. By professional, we are referring to someone who is a member of the Society Will Writers and has signed up to our body. You may also wish to choose a solicitor. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Not all Will Writing firms are regulated. We only regulate individuals and only those with up to date certificates of compliance and ID cards are members of the SWW. If in doubt, contact us for clarification before proceeding.
How much Will it cost?
That’s the million dollar question. The truth it is depends on who you use and where you’re based. Often you’re not just paying for the Will. You’re also paying for advice. Don’t think that a £25 Will is any better than a £100 Will just because it’s cheaper. Take into consideration the advice you’ve been provided with, the literature from the company and read through their terms of business before proceeding. This will set out what is expected of you as a customer but also, what you can expect from your Will Writer. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to fully understand the service and only when you’re happy should you proceed.
How long does it take to write?
This can depend entirely on the complexity of the estate and the advice needed but for the sake of argument lets suggest the average Will is often completed and returned ready to sign in 28 days. Where your circumstances dictate, it may be done a lot quicker. Your Will Writer will need to take your instructions, consider your estate plan, provide advice, provide a draft Will (if their terms and conditions state this), get this checked by you, make any amendments and then provide the final bound copy ready for signing.
How often should you review it?
It is the advice of the Society of Will Writers that you review your Will every three to five years to take into account changes in personal circumstances. Some people review it more regularly than this and others less often.
Where should I keep it?
This is entirely up to you. You are not obliged to store your Will with your Will Writer but often, if they use a facility like The National Will Archive, then this can be a good idea. If you store your Will at home make sure that your executors will know where to look when you’re not around. Make sure it’s not in a place where it can be easily lost or damaged.
Someone with an ulterior motive (perhaps wanting to destroy the Will) shouldn’t be able to access the Will from a professional store.
How do I change my Will?
If you have a letter of wishes (for low value gifts) this can be rewritten and stored with the Will. Changes to the Will however, are a little more complicated. Minor changes can be made by way of a codicil. Your Will Writer can advise you of this. Often you might be better completely rewriting your Will. Remember – a new Will shall supersede/revoke a old Will.
Remember that if you meet with your Will Writer in your home or place of work you will be entitled to a statutory cooling off period of 14 days. That means you have 14 days within which you can cancel and are entitled to a full refund. Please note that this might be slightly different if you give your authority for the work to begin straight away – see their terms and conditions.
Your Will is made valid by the attestation/signing process. Certain legal formalities must be met and they are listed under S.9 Wills Act 1837. When signing any new Will it will need to meet this criteria. If your Will Writer is an SWW member then they will help you with this or provide signing instructions.