Will Writing Explained with Expression Wills
Will writing is often perceived as a dreary subject and one we associate with getting older, but this is truly not the case. Join us as we take a look at a more contemporary approach to writing a Will, what this involves and how and when you should consider writing one.
What is a Will in the most basic terms?
A Will is a legal document that you can prepare in your lifetime, which sets out your instructions for what should happen after you die.
It mainly deals with the distribution of your estate, which essentially means your money, your property, any personal belongings, and any assets that you own. You can also set out who would look after your children or your pets, as well as documenting your preferences about funeral wishes.
When do you need to start thinking about writing a Will?
Everyone over the age of 18 should have a Will. Nobody can predict the future, so the sooner the better.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that a Will is only for the older generation or the rich and this is not the case at all. Making a Will is in the best interest of your loved ones, even if you’ve only got a small amount of money or very few assets, someone will still have to distribute those when you’re gone.
Having a Will makes that process much easier and important for anyone who:
- Owns significant assets such as property
- Owns a business
- Has big savings & investments
- Has young children
You should also think about updating, or making a Will if there are any material changes in your circumstances. For example:
- Buying a house
- Getting married
- Getting divorced
- The birth of a child
- If you receive an inheritance from a family member or a close friend.
These are really important examples of trigger points to review your planning. Many people are put off by making a Will because it seems so final. People perhaps often struggle to make decisions, especially when trying to think about a million different scenarios that might happen over the next 20 years.
You can and you should update your Will over time. We recommend every three to five years to effect any changes. For example, the Will that you prepare at age 20 doesn’t necessarily have to be set in concrete by the time you’re 70; it’s a work in progress.
What happens to my estate if I don’t have a Will?
If you don’t have a Will, then your estate, whatever you own, is shared out according to certain rules determined by law. These are called the rules of intestacy. This means the law decides what happens.
It could mean that the people you would like to benefit, might lose out or your estate may pay more inheritance tax than it needs to. In general terms, the rules of intestacy are very restricted.
They’re covered by legislation that was written decades ago that doesn’t cater to the modern world that we live in today. When this legislation was introduced, the 2.4 children (What was once the average, and therefore supposedly typical, number of children per household in the United Kingdom) were a stereotypical family.
Whereas today, there isn’t such a thing as a standard or normal family setup. People choose to get married a lot later. Some couples opt to live together and not even get married. Some people are in their second, third marriages, which brings stepchildren into the picture.
We haven’t yet seen a change in the law to reflect this new model. It’s probably going to be quite common that a lot of families are going to fall outside of the standard rules. This means someone is likely to miss out.
The rules are quite long-winded, but as a general indication, the rules of intestacy don’t allow any automatic rights for unmarried partners, stepchildren, friends, or charities. These are just a couple of examples where people wouldn’t receive anything under the rules of intestacy if they didn’t have a Will. However, that’s not the be-all and end-all.
Under certain conditions, some people may be able to make an application to the court for financial provision from the estate. That can be a complex process and takes a long time, a lot of money to sort out, and there’s no guarantee.
Another consideration is, if you were a parent and you die without making a Will and have children under the age of 18, the courts are going to decide who to appoint to look after them until they reach adulthood.
While the courts may appoint a blood relative as the guardian, it’s not guaranteed. It’s also possible that the person that a judge chooses, may not be someone that you would have chosen yourself.
Why are Wills not regulated and what does this mean?
This means anyone can enter the market and offer the service. Historically, that’s meant in the past, there have been people out there who have given the industry a bad name. This is in terms of unqualified advisors pushing sales on trusts.
Many people still do not trust Will writers because of this but the industry has moved on a lot in the last few years. It’s more difficult for someone who is an inexperienced and unqualified advisor to get into the market now.
It’s really important that if you’re seeking to prepare a Will, that you carry out the proper research. Make sure the provider is sufficiently trained and qualified to advise on Wills and estate planning.
Whilst the industry isn’t formally governed, some organisations offer the general public some protection. For example, The Society of Will Writers (SWW), and The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), both of which we are members of. As a member, we are expected to follow strict codes of conduct, commit to continuous professional development to ensure the highest level of standards across the industry.
We invest a lot of time ensuring that our knowledge is up to date. We work towards industry-recognised qualifications so that we’re giving our clients the best possible service and the best possible advice.
What are the reasons for having a Will?
There are so many reasons to have a Will. The main one is that it makes distributing your assets after you have gone much easier.
Ultimately, the only way to make sure that your assets pass on as you want to and not as the law decides is to make a Will. You spend your life working hard to build up your assets and your wealth. You don’t want to leave all of that in the hands of the law to decide what happens next.
By making a Will, you have the power to state who inherits what. You also have the option of including trusts in your Will that affords you and your beneficiaries more control and protection. A Will allows you to make gifts to other family members or friends, or a charity that wouldn’t ordinarily be entitled, under the rules of intestacy mentioned previously.
Tax is also a consideration. Although you can’t avoid paying inheritance tax, the rules are very clear. Like any taxes, you can’t avoid paying what’s due. However, with the right planning in place, then your estate isn’t going to pay any more inheritance tax than is necessary.
You’re taking advantage of all the available allowances and exemptions, preserving as much wealth as you can for your family. Most importantly for parents, you can document your choice of guardian if anything happens to you when your children are still under 18.
You’re ensuring that they’re placed with the people that you choose and that you trust, knowing that they’re going to be raised in a secure home with people that will love and care for them in the way that you intend.
Your children are the most valuable asset. Why would you leave decisions on their future in the hands of strangers, who do not know you and do not know them?
Where should I store my Will?
This is your choice but it’s worth remembering there is no such thing as an electronic Will or an electronic signature. These are not valid. The only valid Will is the paper document that’s been validly signed by you and your witnesses in pen.
If you do prefer to store your Will yourself, then by all means you can. It must be kept somewhere safe, ideally somewhere waterproof, and fireproof. If it’s destroyed, there is no replacement.
It needs to be somewhere safe and somewhere your executors will know where to find it so they can carry out the duties in terms of the Will. A much safer option would be to store your Will in a dedicated facility so that it can be easily located when you die. More importantly, there’s no chance that it could be accidentally lost or damaged or even tampered with or destroyed, whether it’s deliberate or unintentional.
Most Will writers offer storage options for a small annual fee, which gives you some additional peace of mind. You’ve invested time and money into making a Will, so you want to make sure that it’s somewhere safe for when the time comes.
What’s the cost of having a Will written?
The cost varies from provider to provider, and it depends on how simple or complex your requirements are.
As a general indication, the starting price for a basic, single Will from a qualified writer or reputable firm is in the region of anything between £150 to £300. The more complex the Will, the higher the fee.
Most Will writers will work on a fixed fee basis. Usually, the process would be to arrange an appointment to understand your circumstances and your requirements. To be able to give you a more accurate quote for the work that needs to be carried out.
Some people think writing a Will is expensive, but it’s about looking at it from the right perspective. A Will is an investment for not just your future, but for your family’s future. As a general approach in life, we have car insurance, home insurance, pet insurance. We even insure our phones. A Will is a form of insurance for your loved ones.
If you do not have a professionally drafted Will, the financial cost to your family to sort everything out after you’ve gone is going to be much greater. This is not just in terms of money, but the additional stress and pressure at an already difficult time.
You’ve just lost someone. You’re grieving, and now you’re having to sort out all of this paperwork, engage with solicitors, and go to court. It’s better to make the right investment now while you can because you can save yourself a whole lot more in the future.
How do I arrange a Will, who do I go to?
As mentioned previously, it’s really important to use a qualified and experienced Will writing service. Make sure that they’re recognised by one of these self-regulatory bodies within the industry.
It’s our job as Will writers to understand you and your situation, both personally and financially, so we can provide you with the best possible advice. Any reputable Will writer will usually arrange an appointment first, to talk through your family, your finances, your wishes, and then we’ll discuss with you any implications or solutions based on individual circumstances.
More often than not, you might need some time after that initial appointment to think about how you would like to move forward. Quite often a discussion can bring up some points that you may not have considered. We support you as much as we can each step of the way, with the ultimate goal being a legally valid Will that accurately reflects your wishes.
What are the dangers of writing my own Will?
You can write your own Will, but it is one of the most important legal documents you’re ever going to need.
You must seek advice from an experienced and qualified professional. Make sure your Will is drafted properly and accurately to reflect your wishes and signed on witness correctly.
It’s still a legal document. As with most legal activities, the rules surrounding Wills are complex. If there are any errors or if the Will is invalid for any reason, then this could have huge consequences after your death, and result in costly court proceedings.
There are many legal documents you wouldn’t even attempt to write on your own. So why risk writing your own Will? Professionals exist for a reason, don’t take the risk. The consequences are just not worth it.
- A Will is not just for the elder generation and rich.
- You should make changes to your Will overtime
- Having a Will can make a huge difference to you and your loved ones’ life.
- You will save time and money in the long run.
If this has raised concerns or you require any help or advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We have a contact form, and a direct link to book a free telephone consultation, and we are here to help and answer any questions that you may have.
Why Expression Wills
Claire has been really helpful throughout the process. She was particularly supportive in helping us decide who to appoint as guardians and trustees and gave us lots of insightful information to help us make the right decision for our family. We have been really happy with the service and would highly recommend Expression Wills.
I used Expression wills to take out my first will, Claire was very knowledgeable and the process was effortless. I would highly recommend Claire and Expression wills to anyone who needed a will.
Had wills completed for myself and my partner, we were already stressed as this was in the middle of our house purchase/sale but Claire made the whole process a breeze. Very informative and helpful every step of the way. Would definitely recommend to anybody thinking of getting a will done