The amount of times that I have heard someone say, when told of my costs to prepare a Will, ‘That’s a bit much just to make a Will!’.
Or being told that drafting Wills is the first thing you learn at law school (it isn’t – you have to choose it as an option) and is so easy to do (in some cases a Will can be straightforward. It’s also the easiest thing to get extremely wrong).
It never fails to surprise me how little value or thought is placed on making a Will.
Many people consider that the cost to them of making a Will professionally is just too expensive. A Will making pack can be bought for less than £30. If a Will making pack is that cheap and you can do it yourself, how can the fees for a professionally drafted Will be justified?
A badly drafted Will can have far-reaching consequences, not just from a financial point of view. The collateral damage and fall out caused to the family and friends left behind can be enormous.
The answer is that generally, some people do not place enough value on making a Will. They just look at how much the fees are.
The true cost of making a Will is the cost of not making a Will or making an invalid Will. The cost is the impact on the loved ones left behind trying to deal with matters. The cost is the additional time, expense and distress which could easily have been avoided. The cost is not just financial, but emotional too.
With a professionally drafted Will, you can be certain that the person advising you is appropriately qualified, will give you the advice relevant to you and most importantly, is insured if things go wrong.
By this I mean going down the route of the Will making pack or copying a template off the internet, to save money. These are a few examples where home-made Wills can go wrong and have happened in real-life.
- The testator (Will maker) used a Will making pack to make a Will. After death, it was discovered that the testator had in fact completed all the templates in the pack. All the templates had been signed and witnessed correctly, all on the same date. It was not possible to identify which Will was in fact the last Will. This led to lengthy correspondence with the Probate Registry and taking statements from the witnesses to the Wills and family to try to establish which Will was the last one. Obtaining a Grant of Probate was a far lengthier and costly experience than it should have been.
- The testator made a home-made Will, again using a Will making pack. When the client died, the Will on the face of it appeared to be in order. The Will left everything to the testator’s only child. The Will had been signed, witnessed, and dated correctly. However, on closer inspection, the Will had been witnessed by the child’s spouse. In this case, the law presumes undue influence and it meant that the child was cut out of the Will. The testator had not read the instructions properly.
A £30 Will kit therefore ended up being a false economy as the estates took a lot more time and expense to sort out.
Not disposing of all the estate
Quite often, a client will say that all they have is their house and current account and they have no other assets and that is all that needs mentioning in the Will. This is not exactly true. The client forgets about the contents of their property, or their life assurance policies or their ancient Premium Bonds they got as a birthday present from their grandmother and all the other bits and pieces that make up their life.
The testator then makes a home-made Will, which says something along the lines of ‘I give my house and LloydsWest bank account to my niece’, thinking that everything is sorted out and niece will get everything.
In this scenario (which is one I have encountered), the deceased had other bank accounts and assets. As she had not disposed of them under the terms of her Will, she died partially intestate.
The deceased did not just have one niece but had nephews too.
When someone dies intestate, it means that they have died without a Will or a Will that is ineffective or partially ineffective. When this happens, the Intestacy Rules apply. The law therefore dictates what happens to the estate.
Therefore, the niece did indeed inherit the house and LloydsWest account. The rest of the estate was dealt with according to the Intestacy Rules and split between the niece and nephews. It would seem from the wording of the deceased’s Will that she probably intended everything to pass to her niece. However, as the Will was not worded correctly and with no firm evidence to prove this is what the deceased intended, a partial intestacy was the result.
Again, an estate where the administration took far longer and was more costly than usual.
All easily avoidable with a correctly, professionally drafted and witnessed Will.
Being an ostrich
Sometimes it is just too difficult to even think about making a Will.
Family circumstances may make someone feel that they are ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’ and it is easier to just not do it. Leave it to the family to sort as ‘I won’t be here to face the consequences’. It has been known for someone to tell their family that they have made a Will and it later transpires there is no Will. They have said they have made a Will simply to keep the peace.
Many times, a client will speak to me and say that they have never bothered making a Will, as their affairs are too complicated. Or they just get too stressed by it. On most occasions, once I have met with the client, they realise that it was not that difficult after all.
Therefore, seek advice sooner rather than later and you may get a pleasant surprise.
‘Better the devil you know’
I have on occasion dealt with Wills where the deceased has left their estate to a partner. The deceased has then split from the partner and not amended their Will. The deceased then dies a few years later and the former partner gets the estate (usually much to the horror of the family).
In some cases, it seems the deceased fully intended this to happen – preferring a former partner to get everything rather than the family….
In most cases, the deceased has talked about updating their Will and never got around to it.
Moral of the tale – keep your Will updated.
‘Just copy my Will’
I have seen Wills where the person making the Will has copied someone else’s professionally drafted Will and substituted their details. The danger is that the Will could incorporate clauses the person does not need or puts them at a disadvantage. Making a Will like this without an understanding of what the terms and clauses of the Will can be a risky course of action.
The value of making a Will
Therefore, the value in a professionally drafted Will is knowing that you have been given advice that is specific to you. The Will drafted is drafted just for you. You know that the Will is going to be signed and witnessed properly. The professional will have assessed your capacity to make a Will. All these elements mean that the Will is less likely to be challenged.
The value of the professionally drafted Will is peace of mind.
To find out how Annaliese or another member of the team, can help to put your mind at ease when it comes to preparing a Will, call us on 0191 567 0465 or email: [email protected]