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BLOG: Why a ‘quick’ will is no substitute for a professionally drafted one

Written by: Shona Lowe
Those of us spending more time in the house than normal due to the impact of the coronavirus will likely be watching more daytime TV than ever before and seeing ads for quick wills.

I’m certainly guilty of that and something I have become increasingly aware of is adverts for quick wills or cheap will-writing services. Having been involved in will drafting for almost 20 years, promises of wills drafted in 15 minutes starting from £19.99 raises some red flags.

Will-writing isn’t a regulated market and this means people can leave themselves unprotected should something go wrong. It also means it’s incredibly important to choose a well-regulated specialist in will drafting and estate planning to write your will. That doesn’t have to be a solicitor but it does have to be an experienced professional.

Common mistakes people make when getting a ‘quick’ will

There are three vitally important elements in making sure you have the right will in place:

  • a detailed understanding of your personal circumstances, your assets and the people you are looking to pass your estate on to
  • the estate planning advice you receive in terms of protecting assets after you’ve gone and being tax efficient
  • the will itself and tailoring it to reflect the first two elements

Putting a will in place, without the advice of an experienced professional who focuses on all three of those, can cause some difficult issues and often impacts not you, but your beneficiaries.

Some common issues are; wills that don’t reflect the law of the country you and or parts of your estate are in, wills which are unclearly drafted, wills that don’t reflect your individual needs and wills that don’t consider the individual circumstances of your beneficiaries to take into account whether their inheritance should be protected.

All of these are avoidable by having the right advice and will at the outset. Otherwise problems are often discovered when it is too late to easily fix them.  If the will provisions cannot be put into effect for any reason, there is a risk that the people you wanted to inherit your estate will not receive it.

That happens when the rules on intestacy have to come in to play to fill the gaps left by the wording or ineffectiveness of your will. These rules will dictate who inherits from you and that may well not match who you wanted.

When should you write a will?

Getting married, buying a home, starting a family, getting divorced or suffering a bereavement; these are all life events that should trigger people to put a will in place. But, in all honesty, the best time is as early as you can – whatever age you are and wherever you are in life. It can even form part of your tax planning and help leave loved ones with less inheritance tax to pay.

Are wills being drafted remotely? What will this mean for the future?

Earlier this year, it was announced that wills could be witnessed virtually rather than in person. This legislation was a crucial step in making wills easier to put in place, particularly for those who were shielding, in ill health or who do not have close families and friends. Where possible you should always get your will re-signed in person once safe to do so.

Will coronavirus mean more wills are written in haste causing problems down the line?

There has undoubtedly been a rise in the number of people putting wills in place. Living through a pandemic has made people want to take control of the things they can and look after their loved ones. The right will does both. We saw a significant increase in demand in the first few months of the pandemic. And that will just be the tip of the iceberg – other people will have seen quick and cheap wills as a solution. But a professionally drafted will can be put in place very quickly so speed should never be a justification to cut corners.

What are the typical costs associated with writing a will?

Will drafting is an area where costs vary significantly. In some cases they can be free but there are specialist estate planners delivering extremely complex advice and wills that can cost thousands of pounds.

What matters is finding a well-regulated and experienced estate planning attorney you trust who will take the time to get to know you, understand your wishes and draft a will that takes all that into account. And does that for a cost that feels like good value.

Putting a will in place can feel daunting but it doesn’t need to be. A professional will be sensitive and will work with you to give you peace of mind. If you don’t have a will or have one that you know needs to be updated, I would strongly urge you to put a professionally drafted one in place sooner rather than later.

Shona Lowe is private client & corporate director at 1825

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