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Where there's a will ...
8:00am Thursday 16th December 2010 in Legal
Alison Craggs, of Botley-based law firm Blake Lapthorn, examines the different types of wills available
Making a will is something a lot of people put off but is one of the most important documents you can have. If you do not make a will then your estate will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules. Who benefits under these rules will depend on the family members you leave behind, and the value of your estate.
There are no provisions under the intestacy rules for an unmarried partner to inherit. It is also a common misconception that if you are married, your spouse will always inherit everything.
So having a well drawn-up will is always better than not having one at all. Nowadays, there are a range of options when having your will prepared. There are do-it-yourself will packs, will writers, or the more traditional route of using a solicitor.
n DIY wills This is the cheapest way to write a will and can cost as little as a few pounds.
In the DIY will pack there is a will template that you complete yourself. You may find this convenient if your affairs are straightforward and your estate is likely to be small upon death.
However, you need to be clear and precise when filing in the gaps in the will, as the consequences of getting it wrong can be substantial.
If you do not draft your will correctly it can mean it is ambiguous and the interpretation uncertain, which could leave your executors with an estate that is difficult and costly to administer.
There is also a greater risk of a disgruntled beneficiary contesting the will, unless you are aware of the law relating to circumstances, which could give rise to a claim being made against your estate.
The cost of having your will drawn up by a will writer or solicitor will be greater but this could be a small price to pay in comparison to the cost of a court case.
n Using a will writing company Rather than prepare a will yourself, you may prefer to use a will writing service.
Will writers are often happy to visit you in your home and usually provide an initial quotation below that of a solicitor.
It is important to note that will writers are unregulated. This means anyone can set up a will writing business and begin drafting wills for people, even though they have little or no experience.
Some will writers are members of professional bodies and are highly-experienced in drafting wills, but others may not be. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to know the difference until it is too late.
Another important factor to consider is that will writers do not have any requirement to carry insurance if things go wrong, and so you should always find out first.
Most will writers offer to store your will but in some cases may charge an annual fee for this. And if the will writer goes out of business, it could cause problems. I have seen instances where someone’s will could not be located because of this.
If you are looking to use a will writer, proceed with caution and ensure the company has a properly qualified draftsman, a good reputation and full insurance cover.
n Instructing a solicitor By instructing a solicitor you are buying a service, not a product.
A solicitor will be able to provide a holistic service and would check your assets are structured in a way that means the provisions in your will can take effect.
They should ask probing questions to establish your wishes in circumstances that you may not have considered.
If you require advice on inheritance tax planning, protecting your assets against possible nursing home fees, business interests or assets abroad, they will also be able to provide advice on this.
To ensure your solicitor has the relevant skills you may want to enquire whether they are a member of a Society of Trust and Estates Practitioners.
If making a will could be compared to buying a car, it would be the choice between making the car yourself with no recourse if it goes wrong; buying it privately — in which case you may get a great deal or a whole heap of problems; or going to a dealership which may cost more, but you will have peace of mind that should anything go wrong, you can always go back to them.
Contact: Alison Craggs, private client Services group, Blake Lapthorn, 01865 254209. Web: www.bllaw.co.uk