Making sure that you have an up-to-date and valid Will is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it ensures that after your death, your estate is distributed exactly how you wish. Whether you are married, or are in a registered civil partnership, if you die without a Will, then the whole of your estate does not pass automatically to your spouse or partner. If you want to be sure that you provide for the people who matter most, you need to leave a Will. Leaving a Will, setting out your clear instructions and wishes, can also help to avoid stress, upset and expense for your family in what can be a very difficult time.
Despite this many people never get round to making a Will. Quite remarkably, it is currently estimated that over 70% of adults in England and Wales are without a valid Will – leaving their loved ones and any business partners in a very vulnerable position. Online 'DIY' services can therefore seem appealing. Such services claim to offer a quick and competitively priced service, without the need to visit a solicitor.
These sort of online Will services, however, do not provide advice on issues such as tax and are usually not available on estates worth more than £1m or those which involve a business, overseas property or other complications. Individuals must also take responsibility for their Wills being signed and witnessed correctly and the law in this area is very complex. Any problems will not be discovered until after death, which can cause a great deal of pain for loved ones along with taking time and money to sort out.
Because Will writing is unregulated, many professionals have questioned the competency and protection provided by some online and DIY services. The person preparing your Will may not even have legal training. Solicitors on the other hand, are highly regulated, have compulsory annual training and must have professional indemnity insurance to the value of at least £2,000,000. This provides peace of mind that your Will is properly drafted, your wishes known and that your family and loved ones will be provided for with no problems. In addition many solicitors will often provide free secure storage for your Will – unlike many high street banks,for example, who often charge a sizable annual storage fee.
Furthermore, having your Will prepared by a solicitor may not be as expensive and time consuming as you may think.
In contrast, contesting a will (or contentious/ contested probate as it is often known) is sadly becoming increasingly common. Who would like the idea of their loved ones fighting over a disputed inheritance after they die? Contesting wills, however, is a complex and specialist area of law and anyone considering disputing a will should make sure they consult a solicitor experienced in this area.
For legal advice from an expert wills and probate solicitor contact our Salisbury, Andover, Verwood, Warminster or Amesbury office today.