Do I really need a will?
Surveys consistently show that over 70% of the population don’t have a current accurate Will. Amazing isn’t it !
Are you one of them? If you are, then you risk dying intestate (i.e. without saying who should inherit your property). This could leave a very uncertain future for your family and friends.
In particular, here are 6 key reasons why you need a valid and up-to-date Will:-
- Your family could be involved in unnecessary costs and delay.
- Without one you have no control over what happens to your property.
- Disagreements may arise between how your property is split between your family – leaving in the worst possible scenario to an inheritance claim or contested probate application – the consequences of which can tragically lead a family split for generations.
- You may not have made enough financial provision for your spouse or partner.
- There may be more tax to pay.
Click here to read more about how our inheritance tax planning solicitors can help you – and our FREE Inheritance tax saving consultation
- If you are living together without having married, then your partner will have no automatic right to any part of your Estate.
- Making a Will gives you some control over what happens to your property and can ensure that you provide for those you care for. In addition, you can also appoint a guardian to look after young children.
Wills need not be expensive or complicated – and you’re probably be surprised that one drafted by our specialist will writing service can cost so little.
Take Advantage of our Free Will Review Offer. Just call to book in your appointment – no strings attached.
The wills and probate solicitors in our experienced Private Client team handle will drafting for clients throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset and further afield – from our offices in Salisbury, Andover, Fordingbridge and Amesbury.
Can I draft my own?
Yes you can, but you must follow certain procedures to make it valid. For example, make sure that you have two independent (non-beneficiary) witnesses present. But that’s not the only thing.
Writing my own DIY will – is it safe?
Worryingly, a huge number of DIY wills are contested — often successfully — leaving the deceased’s dying wishes to be ignored.
If you want the peace of mind that your dying wishes will be adhered to, you should always ensure your will is prepared by an experienced solicitor.
Put simply, many people opt for the DIY approach as they think they will be saving money. The up-front cost might be slightly lower, but the risks are enormous, and the chance of it costing you and your estate money in the long run is very high. Relying on a DIY will is getting more and more risky as family structure and people’s financial affairs become more complicated. Unsurprisingly, in the last few years this has been giving rise to a growth in disputed wills and inheritance claims.
DIY wills can be easily challenged, so the relatively small amount of money you save by not hiring an experienced solicitor will be minimal compared to the legal fees that will be incurred should the will or probate be challenged.
By taking a DIY approach you could very easily be costing your loved ones a lot of money, time and trouble after your death. The long-term savings and peace of mind you get from a will prepared by specialist will writing solicitor will far outweigh any increased short-term spend.
And there’s increasing evidence that not using experienced solicitors to write your will comes with significant dangers.
The latest is a report on the unregulated will writing sector published in September 2023 by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP – the global professional association for family inheritance and succession planning specialists).
STEP warn of the dangers of “cowboy” will writing stating “Dishonest, unqualified and incompetent will writers are costing people millions in extra tax, causing significant distress and leaving grieving families to deal with the financial and emotional consequences of bad advice.”
In a survey of STEP members’ experience in the will writing sector, remarkable 79% said reported coming across wills with basic mistakes.
Who can make a Will?
You must be over 18 and of a “sound mind”. Wills should be written at the soonest possible time if the testator’s mental capacity is likely to deteriorate in the near future.
To prevent a challenge to a will on grounds of mental capacity upon their death, the testator’s doctor should witness the Will being prepared and make a written statement saying that the person had adequate mental capacity to make that Will.
Click here to read more about mental capacity and wills
What Makes Wills Valid?
Wills are very important legal documents, and as such, certain formalities are necessary. Without these criteria in place, the will is invalid, and may be challenged and overturned.
Wills are valid if:
• it’s made by a person aged 18 or over, voluntarily and without being coerced by a third party;
• it was made whilst the person was in their sound mind, ie, they’re aware of what they’re doing and the implications of doing it, as well as being aware of the estate they’re intending to bequeath and the identity of the people they want to inherit;
• it’s in writing;
• it’s signed by the person making the will in full sight of two witnesses, neither of whom can be beneficiaries or the married partner of a beneficiary;
• it’s signed by the two witnesses after the main signatory.
Dating wills is not strictly necessary, but it obviously makes good sense to do so.
Once your will is signed and witnessed, it becomes valid immediately, and you must not alter it in any way.
Do I need to update my will?
Even if you have an existing Will, you may need to update it.
Your situation may have changed – you may have had children since the last Will and wish to make particular provision for them, your financial circumstances may have changed or, most importantly, you may have remarried and, in effect, have invalidated your Will – or have gone through a divorce or civil partnership dissolution which also affects a Will.
Click here to read more about Wills and getting divorced
How can I update my will?
If there is a significant change in your personal or financial circumstances, you should change your Will. It is always recommended to change your Will if you marry or divorce or your financial situation drastically changes.
Our solicitors recommend that you review your will every couple of years to see if your circumstances have changed enough to require an update.
How Can I Change My Will?
A significant change in their personal circumstances may cause a person to change what is written in their existing Will. There are two ways in which this can be done.
Original Wills can’t just be altered, if they have already been witnessed, dated and signed. Alterations that have clearly been made after the original Will was written are not legally valid and would potentially give rise to a challenge.
There are two options:
1. A codicil
This is a supplement to the existing Will. People use a codicil when they want to make alterations such as changing the Executor. The rest of the original Will won’t be affected by the changes. The testator (the person whose Will it is) must sign the codicil and you need two independent witnesses. The witnesses can be different to the ones who were present when the original Will was written. There is no legal limit on the amount of codicils that you can add, but the changes need to be relatively simple. If the changes are extensive and complex, the second option may be better.
2. Writing a new Will
If you need to make a large amount of alterations to your existing Will, you should write a new one. It is essential to remember that the new Will should start by saying that all previous Wills and codicils are revoked, meaning that they are not legally binding anymore.
If you want to change your Will, don’t leave it to chance – call one of our experienced private client solicitors for free no obligation initial phone advice.
Will writing – is it just about who I leave my property to?
No. A will is not simply about your estate and often deal with other wishes you may have as well including;
- Instructions for your funeral and what you would like to happen to your body or ashes
- Arrangements for the care of any children under the age of 18 – and appointment of a guardian should you pass on
Is there anything I need to think about before I make my Will?
You need to consider the following:-
- The nature and value of your property.
- Who you would like to benefit
- Estate planning and tax implications – especially inheritance tax.
- Who you would like to administer your Estate.
- Who you would wish to look after your children if you are not able to.
- Do you have any particular wish for your funeral arrangements
Are there any appointments I need to make in my will ?
You will need to give thought to 3 sets of people that you may need to appoint to deal with the probate of your estate
1. Executors – your executors are those responsible for ensuring that your wishes are followed and your property collected together, debts paid and assets distributed as set out in your will. You should make sure that the executor has agreed to act in that capacity before you appoint them – being the executor of a loved one or friend does involve considerable responsibility and is not something that should be taken lightly.
Executors are often family members or close friends appointed to carry out your wishes. You might also wish to appoint professional executors – either your solicitors or alternatively a bank – but please do bear in mind that banks’ probate services tend to be very expensive indeed – almost always considerably more than your local solicitor.
Our own Probate Solicitors are also regularly appointed as both professional executors on a regular basis and as trustees of family trusts.
2. Trustees and guardians – if you have young children you may need to appoint guardians to look after them whilst they are minors, and trustees to look after their money – until they come of age. Again make sure, when appointing either trustees or guardians, that you get their consent first.
Click here to read more about why you might want to create a trust
In addition, we offer a specialist trust administration service.
Click here to read how are Professional Trustee Solicitors can help you.
Missing Wills – look after yours
Many European countries have a Central Registry where wills are deposited, so that when someone dies it is easy to establish if they have a Will and to be sure that it is the most recent version. The UK has no such facility and there are currently no proposals to begin one.
This means that when you make a Will, it is very important to make sure that the people you name as executors, and those named as the primary beneficiaries, know where the original is kept and that you tell them if you move the original at any time. This should ensure that if anything happens to you, they know where the original Will is held.
It is common for people to leave their original Wills with the solicitor who prepared them and to have a copy at home. We provide free storage both for Wills we have prepared, and even for those which we have not drafted.
Keep a copy of the will with your other papers where it will be readily discovered – and make sure that your executors have the name, address and phone number of the solicitor’s firm.
Sometimes people choose to keep their original Wills at home. We don’t recommend that, but in this case that will should be kept in a fireproof safe – and your executors will need to have a note of how to access the safe if you die. It used to be common for people to leave Wills with their bank for safekeeping but this is now a less popular option because of the costs involved. Banks usually charge an annual fee, which over the years can prove quite expensive.
Trying to trace a Will when its whereabouts are not known can be a costly, time consuming and ultimately futile exercise.
The worst possible outcome is that it could result in some sort of probate contest or inheritance claim [one of the best ways of splitting a family ever known to solicitors]. So be sure you save your family the upset by making sure those involved are kept informed.
Should I make any provision for my pet?
Upon the passing of a loved one, any pets they may have owned are treated by law as nothing more than a belonging. Pets can left to a named individual – or in the absence of any such provision in the will, the beneficiaries can all agree who should have the care of your beloved pet.
If not, your animal must be sold, given away or put down.
In the absence of a particular provision to allow for particular money to be spent on your pet, only the expenses deemed strictly necessary to look after your pet can be made available by the executor.
So what happens if you’ve got a much loved pet and you die first – especially if you don’t live a spouse or live in partner behind to care for the animal?
If that might happen to you, it’s a good idea if you state in your Will what your wishes are and who will look after your pet. You might also leave a clear direction as to where the funds to cover any expenses incurred will come from. You could, for example, consider leaving a fixed sum of money to someone taking on care of your pet to cover day-to-day expenses.
There are also charities with schemes in place for looking after orphaned pets. By leaving them a bequest, you can rest assured that both your pet and others will be supported.
What is a Video Will?
A few years back, a number of charities worked together to conduct some research about video wills. Their findings showed that 63% of people liked the idea of them. These charities want to promote debate about the assets of a deceased person.
It is important to note that these kind of video records are not legally binding. A legally binding Will has to be written, witnessed and countersigned by 2 people at the same time.
What use are video wills then?
They are a method of giving some “life” to a Will and explaining what you want to happen when you pass away. They also encourage the necessary people to start discussing your estate and what will happen to it. If video records of their wishes make people more likely to sort out their estate for when they pass away, then they should be encouraged