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We live in a very competitive market where companies from a wide range of sectors offer sometimes unexpected services; supermarkets offering credit cards, shops offering funeral services and Virgin offering, well, pretty much everything!

 

So it can be easy to get caught up in who is offering the cheapest deal rather than researching the best suited option for you.

 

When it comes to writing an important document such as your will you want peace of mind that it is drafted correctly to your own personal circumstances and that when the time comes, the document will work as intended.

 

There are many options when it comes to writing a will. You can ‘do it yourself’, use a will writing pack from a shop, pull one off the internet, use the services of a will writer at a bank or mortgage broker for example, or you can instruct a Solicitor.

 

As a will is a document that you won’t ever see being used, many people will unfortunately put a priority on cost rather than value and go for the cheapest option on the market. 9 times out of 10 that will not be a firm of solicitors, but it is worth remembering that quite often you do ‘get what you pay for’ and you or your family dealing with your estate may begrudge that decision later down the line.

 

Here are some open and honest points to consider when weighing up whether to instruct a solicitor or use an alternative will writing service:

 

  • Anyone can be a will writer. It takes years of studying, training and examinations to become a solicitor whereas anyone can start up a will writing service. Remember that the qualifications and knowledge of a solicitor is what you are paying for to ensure that your will is watertight and truly carries out your wishes.

 

  • DIY Will Dangers. Writing your intentions down yourself is the cheapest possible option, but understand that there are many risks involved in doing this. Most people begrudge paying a visit to the dentist, but if you had a tooth ache you are likely to go to the dentist for an extraction, even though you might be able to pull your own tooth out at home! The same logic applies here – it is far less painful to seek advice from a professional. Mistakes can cause a lot of stress, heartache and added expense for your family left to deal with your affairs. There will also be no legal comeback should your family need assistance. Even if you use a template or pro-forma from the internet, the provider will take no responsibility for errors or how it is completed. Unless you are an expert in private client legal matters and tax then you may miss vital red flags which could leave your family with a much larger tax bill to pay than necessary. If you own property, have children, investments, a complex family (i.e. children from previous relationships, past marriages or step children), own your own business, have specific wishes or substantial wealth then a DIY will is not recommended.

  • Seeing the whole picture. An experienced solicitor will be able to establish from discussing your circumstances whether you have any other areas that need addressing, such as your Inheritance Tax Position, Trusts, Lasting Powers of Attorney or property ownership. A will writer or using a template yourself will not flag any other pitfalls or opportunities to better prepare your estate. You may think that you require a straight-forward will but unless your adviser delves into your family background and spends time getting to understand your wishes, you may end up with a will that is generic and not bespoke to you.

 

  • Regulation & Insurance. Solicitor firms are very heavily regulated by the SRA and all law firms must have Professional Indemnity Insurance, which means that you can have peace of mind that, in the rare situation that something was to go wrong, your affairs and your money is safeguarded for your beneficiaries. Firms such as Lamb Brooks are audited throughout the year and individual solicitors take part in regular training, tests and assessments to ensure they are up-to-date with regulation and also client service. There are no such regulations in place for will writers.

 

  • Independence & Personal Choice. Many companies that offer will writing services will insist on being appointed as executors. When you write your will with a solicitor these decisions are entirely yours and the will can be written in a much more flexible way as it is drafted from scratch rather than from a pre-set template. You can appoint your own executors, or choose to appoint the law firm to act on your behalf if you wish.

 

  • Contesting a Will. Each year many families are left upset by the decisions made in a will and will challenge this after their relative has passed away. Often these challenges are made where someone was influenced or pressured by someone else to change or write their will in favour of a certain person/s. Or challenges can occur where the deceased was not of sound mind when they created their will. Using a solicitor means that the client is fully assessed for mental capacity before signing a will or any other legal document. They are also trained to identify any red flags that lead them to believe the person is being pressured and will speak to a client on their own to ensure they are fully aware of the impact their will could make. A solicitor will not go ahead unless they are confident that they are acting in the best interests of their client. When using a will writer or using a DIY will kit these safeguards are not in place.

 

  • Safe Storage. It is important to store your will somewhere safe and secure; and also to make sure that your executors or relatives know where to find your will. The majority of solicitors, such as Lamb Brooks, will store your will free of charge in their ‘strong room’ which is highly secure and fire proof. If anything was to happen to a firm of solicitors all wills and stored documents would pass to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Some will writers may have storage solutions, but they do not have the backing of the SRA should a will become lost or the firm ceases trading.

 

  • Meeting Face-to-Face. When disclosing personal matters and discussing your personal circumstances and wealth, most people feel more at ease speaking to someone face-to-face. Meeting with a solicitor will help build trust and enable you to ask additional questions. This is particularly useful if you are making a will for the first time or are unsure on the often complex language and terms used in legal services. Meeting face-to-face can really help elderly or vulnerable family members to understand the process and go through any paperwork together. Obviously when writing your own will or using an online service there isn’t an opportunity to raise questions or sense check your ideas.

 

  • Cost Factors. Due to all the points above, instructing a solicitor to write your will is unlikely to be the cheapest option – there is no point trying to hide this fact. However, we do know from experience that many clients come to a solicitor to have their wills re-written after receiving poor advice from another provider, so paying twice is not ideal. It is important to take stock of what is included in quotes received from will writers as they often will not cover everything that a solicitor would as standard. We have also seen incidents where the price of a will, for example, is very cheap but they then charge almost double for other services, such as an LPA – lulling clients in to a false economy.

 

If written correctly by a professional solicitor there is no reason why a will would need to be re-written (unless the client’s circumstances dramatically change). So the investment in a professionally written will is a sensible choice to make to minimise risk, plan for your family’s future and give peace of mind.

 

The cost of a will depends on how complex your circumstances are, but for an idea of what it will cost please get in touch with our friendly team who will be happy to go through the cost and process involved when making a will.

 

If you are considering writing a will or having your will re-written professionally then please contact our private client team at Lamb Brooks on 01256 844888 or email enquiries@lambbrooks.com

 

 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.