Why ask a solicitor to draft my Will if a Will writing company is cheaper?

28 March, 2018
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

We are often asked this question.  Here are some reasons why, prompted by recent news of a Will Writing company going into administration.

Your Will is your chance to say formally how you want your property and assets shared out when you die.  A properly drafted Will is vital to ensure that your wishes are followed.  Poorly drafted Wills can cause difficulties which are usually only discovered when it is too late, and the family is left to clear up the mess.

On the face of it, a Will writing company may be a more desirable option than using a solicitor because it costs less – although it is not always the case that the costs are less especially if trusts are involved, and if they are, it could cost you more in the long run.  The problem is that some businesses offering ‘professional’ Will writing or estate planning advice are totally unregulated. They need no technical qualifications, negligence insurance or continuity arrangements to protect consumers should they cease trading. 

If your affairs are simple, you could draft your own Will but the cost of obtaining professional advice will normally be modest compared with the issues that could arise if you get it wrong!

A survey undertaken by STEP (The Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners) highlighted the ‘incompetence and dishonesty in the UK Wills market’.

Here are some key reasons to ‘go legal’:

Legal understanding

Solicitors undertake years of legal training, the training is ongoing and comprehensive. A legal professional will tailor your Will to fit your wishes and your circumstances.  There may be complex tax issues or reliefs available that are not understood by someone trained only in basic Will drafting.  For example, a solicitor can advise on whether you are eligible for the residence nil rate band.

Validity

There are formal legal requirements for a Will to be valid.  It is not uncommon to find Wills drafted that do not meet those requirements.  If the Will is invalid, your estate could be tied up for years in litigation before it is distributed, and it may not, ultimately, benefit your chosen beneficiaries e.g. if  you have no valid Will, there are rules (Intestacy Rules) that dictate how your estate will be shared out which may not match your wishes. Testamentary capacity is required for a Will to be valid, and solicitors are used to advising on issues surrounding capacity.

Insurance

Solicitors have to have insurance that covers their clients’ losses if the solicitor is negligent and makes a mistake that causes the loss.  Unregulated Will writers do not have to have insurance, so if they make a mistake there is no guarantee that the loss will be made good.

Executors

Your executors are responsible for collecting in your assets and distributing them in accordance with your Will, so your choice of executors is key.  A solicitor trust corporation can be appointed as your executor, or co-executor with a family member, removing the burden from family or friends during a difficult time.

If an unregulated Will writing company is appointed as the executor of your Will, and then goes out of business, you may have to make a new Will appointing new executors if there has been no continuity planning.  For more information on the benefits of appointing a solicitor trust corporation as an executor see our previous blog here.

Storage

A solicitor (or Will writing company) can store your Will until it is required. If stored with a solicitor your Will is protected if the firm goes out of business or moves. This is because all law firms are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (‘SRA’).  If a law firm becomes insolvent the SRA will take control of documents and papers relating to that firm’s clients.  An unregulated Will writing company can simply disappear without trace. There have been cases where an unregulated Will writing company had gone out of business and Wills and files held by them were found on the pavement or stored in a barn. 

If you would like to discuss your Will, please contact Nicola Hillyer on 01892 506014 or at nicola.hillyer@crippspg.co.uk.