You’ve probably had friends write their own Wills, or use a Will writer, and you’ve heard that solicitors can be expensive.
Why would you use a solicitor when there are other options?
Here are some good reasons why:
Will writing is an unregulated industry
Anyone, with any level of academic ability, can attend a few hours of training and declare themselves an ‘expert’ in Wills.
But to be a true expert you need to spend a long time understanding Wills and how they work. In addition to this, you also need to understand property law, family law, litigation, and estate administration.
Solicitors will have spent a minimum of six years completing a mixture of academic and professional training. They will have the level of expertise required to prepare a thorough and effective Will.
A Will is a legal document. The best person to prepare a legal document is a solicitor who has a thorough understanding of the law.
Wills are not tested until death
Any Will that is prepared will rest dormant and untested until you die. It is only at this point that any problems will become apparent.
Problems are something that your executors and family will have to face, resolve, and overcome. They complicate and delay things, as well as causing misery, additional costs, and often an undesirable outcome.
No one likes to make mistakes. However, we are all human and errors can happen. Wills have the reputation of being one of the biggest areas of negligence and that is because they are difficult to write. The regulation of a solicitor provides the consumer with additional protection in the face of errors on the part of a solicitor.
Solicitors will have insurance. They must have a complaints procedure in place, and if you aren’t happy with the outcome, the Legal Ombudsman is there to provide further assistance. The Solicitors Regulation Authority can provide compensation if there is not adequate insurance in place. This protection exists, even if the professional who prepared the original Will is no longer in practice. Bearing in mind that Wills are not tested until death, it is a great comfort to know that the protections provided by using a solicitor will exist long after the solicitor themselves has gone.
This consumer protection is unparalleled and invaluable to the client and (possibly more importantly) their family.
The myth of the simple Will
A Will is not simple just because the client believes that it is. A solicitor is under a duty to act in the best interests of their client, and they will tell the client if they need something more complex to protect their beneficiaries.
They will also tell them if a simple Will is sufficient and not try to sell them more than they need.
The important point to note is that the role of the solicitor is not merely to record your wishes. They will look at the wider legal position, and help you identify additional options and opportunities. For instance, tax savings or protecting a vulnerable beneficiary.
It pays to be suspicious of anyone who tells you that solicitors over-complicate Wills. Will are complicated and require a high level of expertise to complete well.
In England and Wales, we have testamentary freedom. This is a fancy way of saying that you can leave your assets to whoever you like after your death. This is a great privilege and something that is not possible in many other countries, for instance, France, Italy, or even Scotland.
Despite this, it is an unfortunate reality of modern life that it is becoming more common for Wills to be challenged after death. Disappointed beneficiaries, or estranged family members, frequently challenge Wills, tying up the estate in delays and costs, often for many years. This can also cause a legacy of bad feeling, something to be avoided.
As a matter of course, a solicitor will gather the information necessary to defend a Will against any claims. They will be aware of the law on challenges to Wills, the grounds that can be used, and the processes involved. They will keep detailed notes of your instructions, the basis for decisions, and your understanding, and these are invaluable in the face of a challenge to the Will.
At the end of the day, you want a Will that is not only created, but also robust and defendable, so that what you intend to happen after your death does actually happen. This is best in the hands of a solicitor.
Solicitors are independent
Solicitors will not require you to appoint them as executors of your estate or require you to leave part of your estate to them.
Having free choice in terms of your executors and your gifts is essential when writing a Will. The solicitor’s duty (to act in your best interests) overrides any business or personal ambitions. When you discuss your affairs with a solicitor, you are obtaining genuine and independent advice.
Their involvement is also invaluable if you are intending to leave your assets in a manner that your family might not expect or approve of. If you have employed a solicitor who is independent of your family situation, and records your wishes carefully, the solicitor themselves will be an excellent resource for your estate if your Will is challenged.
Value for money
We then need to look at cost compared with quality. Some solicitors will be more expensive than the other options. Some will be cheaper. It is best to ask – the difference in cost is often less than you might think.
Although solicitors generally work on hourly rates, when it comes to preparing a Will most work on a fixed fee basis. This will be agreed upfront, so the consumer will know the cost from the outset, and there will be no hidden fees.
Even at its biggest, the difference in cost between paying for a solicitor and some of the other options is usually only a few hundred pounds. Not insignificant, but marginal if you look at the overall value of the assets involved.
It is very easy to make a saving of £200 on Will preparation. But this Will, however, will control the transfer of your estate worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is important that the document is right and you can only be sure of this with a quality product. Is a £200 saving worth it for the wrong advice?
Instructing a solicitor can save you money in the long run. The correct comparison should be the cost of an effective Will, compared to the cost of an ineffective Will. This is really cost vs value. Value wins every time.
Ultimately, your Will is just too important to take a risk. We are talking about the transfer of all of your assets to your loved ones, protecting their inheritance, and ensuring they are cared for after your death. There is too much riding on this to take a chance.
Time to protect your legacy – go for quality over cost.
If you would like to discuss your existing Will, or the preparation of a new Will, please contact Catherine on 0118 40 50 131 or by email at email@example.com.