Everyone should have a Will but what do you actually know about them? If the answer is ‘not much’, then this  is exactly why we chose to run our #12DaysOfChristmas #12DaysOfFamily law blog series, to spotlight legal issues BLM’s private wealth practice is regularly asked to address.

In the spirit of giving and all things festive, we have gathered together responses to these FAQs. So, #Day10, where there is a Will…

Wills FAQs

  • How much does a Will cost?
  • Do I need to make a Will?
  • Can I prepare my own Will?
  • Can I make a Will online?
  • What is a simple Will?
  • Do I need a Will if I am married?
  • Do I need a Will if I am co-habiting?
  • Should I use a professional to help me prepare my Will?
  • How long does it take to prepare a Will?
  • Why should I choose BLM?
  1. How much does a Will cost? 

The honest answer is that ‘it depends’. On average a relatively straightforward Will, costs around £150 - £300 plus VAT. If your personal matters are more complex (such as if you have business interests, inheritance tax issues or you have a blended family) and a form of trust is required in your Will, then costs will increase that price further. On average, a Will encompassing some form of trust structure would be around £600 - £1000 plus VAT.

  1. Do I need to make a Will?

By making a Will, you are ensuring that:

  • Your estate will be administered by someone you trust (called an Executor).
  • Your chosen beneficiaries inherit your estate in the proportions you decide.
  • Guardians are appointed for your children. If you don’t have a Will, you have no say as to who inherits your estate. Your estate would be divided under the rules of intestacy. Simply put, ‘No Will, No Say’. 
  1. Can I prepare my own Will?

Yes there is nothing stopping you from preparing your own Will. In order for a Will to be valid it needs to be:

  • In writing.
  • Signed by the person making the Will (called the testator).
  • In the presence of two adult independent witnesses who should then sign the Will in the presence of the testator and each other.

It really is that straightforward. But there are risks of preparing your Will yourself and it really is a case of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. At BLM we’ve seen many instances of people preparing their own Wills, only to accidentally disinherit a family member, benefit someone who they did not intend to or to fail to sign the Will correctly, leaving a Will that is not legally binding.

  1. Can I make a Will online?

Yes, you can make a Will online. There are many online companies offering Will packages whereby you complete an online questionnaire and a Will is prepared on the basis of your answers. An online will, may be appropriate if you have relatively simple affairs, for example, if you are married with one child and your only assets are a house and a bank account. They may not be appropriate if you have more complex affairs. As with any industry, there are unfortunately some unscrupulous online Will companies who will insist that they are appointed as your executors in order to proceed and then hidden in their terms of business, are extortionate charges that come in to force when you die. So you need to ensure that you research the company and their charges before you proceed.

  1. What is a simple Will?

Most clients feel that they only need a simple Will to ensure that their wishes are met and in most cases this is the case. The advantage of a simple Will is perceived simplicity at both the preparation stage and on death. A simple Will would tend to include:

  • Funeral wishes;
  • Appointment of executors;
  • Appointment of guardians;
  • Gifts of specific items (such a jewellery);
  • Cash gifts;
  • Gift of the remainder of the estate. A simple Will would not include any aspects of asset protection which can lead to future beneficiaries losing their inheritance. 
  1. Do I need a Will if I am married or in a Civil Partnership?

It is a common belief that if you are married or in a civil partnership that the other party to that relationship would automatically inherit the estate of the first of them to die. This is incorrect. The actual answer is, ‘it depends’. This is because if you die without a Will, the law deems you to have died ‘intestate’ and therefore it is the law that decides who inherits your estate and in what proportions. This can lead to the surviving party to the marriage not receiving all of the estate and then as a result having to bring a claim against the estate for reasonable provision.

By making a Will you are ensuring that your wishes are met and that your husband/wife/civil partner receives your estate. 

  1. Do I need a Will if I am co-habiting?

You may have heard the myth that a ‘common law spouse’ has the same legal rights under intestacy as a husband/wife/civil partner. This is simply incorrect. Under the laws of intestacy, a ‘common law spouse’ receives nothing. It is essential to have a Will prepared if you are co-habiting with your partner. 

  1. Should I use a professional to help me prepare my Will?

Whilst you can prepare your Will yourself it is advisable to obtain professional assistance, whether that be from a solicitor, will writer or online company. There are advantages and disadvantages of each option. Do bear in mind that will-writing is unregulated and in each area there are both good and bad practitioners, therefore research is absolutely key. The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) is the gold standard in Will preparation and estate administration and it is therefore advisable to check that the practitioner is a ‘full’ member of STEP. Here at BLM we are advocates of STEP and our team contains ‘full’ STEP members and I personally as head of BLM’s private wealth practice, sit on the STEP England and Wales Regional Committee. If you choose to use a solicitor, please bear in mind that solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority so should you have any cause for complaint you have recourse. Furthermore solicitors do have to have insurance cover, so you should have peace of mind if something went awry with your Will.

When choosing which path to pursue, we suggest that you ask questions of your chosen practitioner. If they struggle to answer, then keep searching until you find someone who can.

  1. How long does it take to prepare a Will?

It depends which route you take in the preparation of your Will. If you were to use an online service, you may be able to print it off the same day and sign it there and then (once you have found two witnesses). It only takes about 2 – 6 weeks to have a Will prepared for you by a specialist solicitor like BLM. This includes: 

  • A face-to-face meeting with a solicitor;
  • Bespoke advice on your individual circumstances;
  • A draft copy being sent to you for approval;
  • A meeting with the solicitor to sign the Will.
  1. Why should I choose BLM? 

At BLM we see our role as helping you to make the best possible decision when it comes to your Will and overall Estate Planning.

We believe that it is a given that you should expect the correct legal advice and standard of service from your solicitor.

Our mission is simply to provide the best possible value to each of our clients – above and beyond the industry standard.

Many firms say that they prepare bespoke Wills, but most tend to prepare the Wills that the client says that they want, rather than the Wills that they actually need for their individual circumstances.

Our goal is educate our clients on all of the options available to them and then advise on the best way to proceed.

Our ethos can be distilled down thus - ‘we advise; you decide’.

To read the previous blogs in our 12 Days of Christmas series, please click on the links below:

Day 1: Self-care tips during a divorce

Day 2: Why you need a Will

Day 3: Full financial disclosure: England & WalesScotland

Day 4:Are pre-nuptial agreements legally binding?

Day 5:Christmas bubbles and childcare arrangements during the COVID-19 crisis: Scotland

Day 6: How much does a divorce cost? England & WalesScotland

Day 7: What happens to my inheritance if I divorce?

Day 8: Top 10 divorce pitfalls

Day 9: Can I attend arbitration to deal with finances on divorce?

Disclaimer: This content does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to clients of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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