At a recent networking meeting, a solicitor in the group reminded us all how important it is to be careful when selecting who to ask to write your Will telling us about an experience she was currently assisting with where a client had been charged £19.99 by a will-writing service which included a clause which provided the will-writing service with 4% of the deceased estate!
As financial adviser, we urge anyone over 18 with any assets – large or small – to write a Will; it saves surviving family a lot of complication and in some cases expense as well as ensuring that you leave your Estate to those that you want to benefit.
It might appear expensive (solicitors in the North West charge in the region of £180 + VAT for a basic Will) when compared to the cut-prices which are often on offer by will-writing services but some of the potential pitfalls have been noted by STEP, the Society of Trustees and Estate Practitioners, including:
- Invalid wills: Unqualified will writers can sometimes produce invalid wills due to basic drafting errors
- Disappearing wills and will-writing companies: There have been high incidences of will-writing companies going out of business and their clients’ wills subsequently disappearing
- Hidden fees: ‘extras’ such as additional clauses, review charges and storage fees, in some cases causing the price to rise more than tenfold from the advertised price
- Trust errors: Errors have been made in designing trusts such that trusts will not be valid when required; complicated trusts have been used within Wills in situations where they are entirely unnecessary
Of course, we know that there are many professional and reliable will-writing service available however a few words of caution;
- Is the person writing your Will qualified? Do they know the law and the implications of what is being written particularly if you include Trusts, assets held outside of the UK and tax planning including inheritance tax?
- Are they regulated and insured? What recourse does your Estate have if mistakes have been made?
- If they are storing your original Will, is it safe? Could it be damaged by fire or flood? Are the storage facilities insured against theft or loss?
In the absence of regulation, the best way for clients to ensure they are dealing with an adequately qualified professional who is an expert in the field of trusts and estates is to adopt the services of a STEP member. One can identify if their adviser is a full STEP member by the use of the designation TEP (Trust and Estate Practitioner) after their name. TEPs are the most experienced and senior practitioners in the field of trusts and estates.
It would be our opinion that a qualified solicitor would be best placed to write your Will especially if you have complex affairs and the best way to find one, in our opinion, would be from personal recommendation.