How to make a will: Solicitors vs DIY

How to make a will: Solicitors vs DIY
March 1, 2017 Felicity Anderson

How to make a will

Have you made a will? Putting plans in place for after you die is extremely important, especially if you have children or dependents. But do you know how to make a will?

You can draw up a will yourself, use a will writing service, or pay a solicitor to do it. The option that you chose may depend on cost, how much of it you want to do yourself, and how complex your arrangements are.

Here CashLady explores the different ways that you can make a will and what you can expect to pay for each one.

What to consider when writing your will

Before you sit down to write your will you should decide who you want to benefit from your estate. That’s the money, property and possessions that you leave behind after you die.

You will also need to select an executor. This is the person or people who will carry out your wishes and collect in your assets. They will also pay any debts or taxes and then distribute them among the beneficiaries of your will.

It’s not essential but you may also want to use the document to indicate any further wishes, such as whether you would like to be buried or cremated.

Why you should write a will

Writing a will helps ensure that all your affairs are taken care of simply, and in the way that you want after you die.

If you don’t write a will then the people close to you may have difficulty sorting out arrangements during what is already a very difficult time.

Without a will, everything you own would be shared out in a way defined by the law. Unfortunately, this may not be in keeping with what you want. If you have children or dependents, then it’s essential that you stipulate what you want for them.

How to make a will: Writing your will yourself

Writing your own will is only suitable if your wishes are very simple. Such as, you want to leave everything that you own to your husband or wife, or your children.

It is possible to write up a DIY will, using a cheap template bought online or from a stationary shop for around £10.

A template is recommended because it’s a very important document. If you make any mistakes, such as using incorrect wording or not having it signed properly then it could mean that your will isn’t valid.

Your will doesn’t need to be a complex legal document but it must:

  • Include information on how your estate should be shared out when you die.
  • Be signed and dated by you in the presence of two adult independent witnesses, and then signed by the witnesses in your presence. Note that, the witnesses can’t be people who are going to inherit anything from you (or their husband/wife or civil partner.)
  • Have been made when you could make your own decisions and you weren’t put under pressure about your wishes and who to select as beneficiaries.

You should also ensure that it is stored in a safe place and that you make your executor aware of its location.

While writing your own will may seem very simple, matters become more complex when you own property abroad. Also, if you will be required to pay inheritance tax or have children from a previous marriage.

In these cases, it is recommended that you consider the options below.

How to make a will: Using a solicitor to draw up your will

Using a solicitor to draw up your will is more expensive than doing it yourself or using a will writing service. But it could make things simpler for your family and friends once you have gone.

It also provides access to legal advice before drawing it up. And helps ensure that any complicated legal matters are taken care of correctly.

It’s strongly recommended that you use a solicitor if any of the below applies to you:

  • You’ll have to pay Inheritance Tax
  • Your family position is complicated, for example, you have children with a previous partner
  • You have property overseas
  • You run a business and you expect it to form a part of your estate

Benefits of using a solicitor to write your will

  • There are less likely to be any mistakes that could cause legal complications after your death
  • If you want to complain about the service provided by your solicitor, then you can complain to the legal ombudsman
  • Your solicitor can provide advice and go over any complicated legal matters before your will is drawn up
  • Your will is usually stored safely for free

You can also use your solicitor to act as your executor, meaning that they would take care of all the arrangements in your will.

First, you should check how this is charged as it can be very expensive. So, you may prefer to nominate a close friend or relative who you can trust with the responsibility.

Cost of using a solicitor

The cost for using a solicitor to write your will depends on where you live in the UK and how straight forward your affairs are.

Expect to pay up to £200 for a simple single will or £300 for a joint one. If you own property abroad or have trusts, then it is likely to cost more.

When planning your will, you should think about what you want first and then contact your solicitor to ask for a quote, ensuring that VAT is included.

This allows you to compare costs in advance and means that you will be prepared for your appointment. So, you’re less likely to run up extra costs from solicitors who charge by their time.

You can find a solicitor by visiting the law society website here.

will writing months

Will writing months

While you can usually expect to pay into the hundreds to use a solicitor to write your will, there are times of the year when you may be able to get it for the cost of a charity donation.

You can find out about the various schemes available online. Below are two of the main ones, with Free Wills Month running this month.

  • Free Wills Month – this runs twice a year, usually in March and October across certain parts of England, Scotland and Wales. See here for more information.
  • Will Aid – this runs in November, with around 1,000 solicitors taking part. You usually have to book in advance, see here.

How to make a will: Using a will writing

If you don’t feel that you require a solicitor but want some assistance with writing your will then you could use a will writing service.

This option is best if you have a general understanding of how wills work and yours is relatively simple.

Depending on the service, it can be done online, over the telephone, or in person. Also, it provides more guidance than doing it yourself but is cheaper than using a solicitor.

If you chose an online service, then you will be required to answer questions covering your assets.

As well as personal circumstances and who you would like as your executor and beneficiaries.

Once you have entered all the required information, it will often be sent to a solicitor to check. Then you will be sent a draft by post or email for you and your witnesses to sign.

Some online services have a telephone helpline to help you with any questions. While others will let, you speak to a specialist will writer before you start.

Other will writing services offer face to face meetings where a person comes to your home to discuss your will. They will go over all the relevant details and provide you with your will to be signed and witnessed.

There are many will writing services to choose from and so take the time to think about what you are the most comfortable with. Also, note that if something goes wrong when writing your will that you won’t have the same protection as with a solicitor.

Your will is an important document. So, you should check the service you select belongs to either the Society of Will Writers or the Institute of Professional Will Writers.

Most will writers are not fully legally qualified. But if they’re a member of a recognised trade body then they have been trained in wills and estate planning.

Also, consider safe storage of your will as this may not be offered by the cheaper will writing options.

Costs

The costs for using a will writing service vary between providers and can begin at nothing for a free trial, to upwards of £100.

Some of the most popular will writing services are listed below:

Rocket Lawyer provides a one-week free trial, meaning that you can use it to create your will and then cancel the subscription before you are charged.

https://www.rocketlawyer.co.uk/

Which? Offers a will writing service for single and joint wills for around £165 for a single will and £259 for joint.

This service comes with full telephone support from a specialist who will also check and review your will. Once it’s approved you’ll be sent a high quality will that is printed to send back for secure storage.

Benefits of using a will writing service

  • Usually cheaper than a solicitor
  • Online service that makes it simple and gives you time to think it through
  • Telephone support is offered by some services
  • Your will may be checked by a solicitor
  • You may have the option of safe storage for your will
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