What's On This Page?
All about will writing with Liz Killip, and she answers a list of frequently Googled questions.
What is a will?
It’s a legal declaration of an individual’s intentions about the dispersal of their estate. It only takes effect on death and it’s not just a wish, it’s a legal declaration.
Who needs a will and when do you need to think about getting one?
You can actually make a will when you reach the age of 18. A lot of 18 year olds might think they haven’t got anything, but we all accumulate possessions and it can be surprising how much you have got.
If they’re going to go travelling or to university abroad it might be a sensible step to have one, but on the whole we suggest people make a will when they either buy a property, get married or enter a civil partnership. It’s usually when something significant is happening in your life.
Having children is a big trigger, because you would want to specify your children’s guardians. Guardianship doesn’t automatically go to the person you think would be able to look after them. Having grandchildren might also mean you want to change your will, to leave specific things to them.
Divorce changes the effect you have on your will – some things will be invalid. If you remarry you may wish to change the will to protect your children’s inheritance. Also iif your spouse or partner passes away your will may longer be appropriate.
Most importantly, you can only actually make a will when you’ve got mental capacity. So in summary anyone over 18 can make a will, and there’s no harm in making one at all.
What are the reasons for having a will?
If you don’t have a will you die intestate. People think that their possessions will all pass to their spouse or partner, but it doesn’t. There are strict rules on intestacy.
So the reason to make a will is to set out where your estate goes. It can allow you to distribute different shares of your assets, rather than share everything equally. It can help with inheritance tax planning, and setting up a trust can sometimes mitigate care home fees which is so important to people these days. You can also put in a succession of business interests if you are a company director. Intestacy doesn’t allow you to exclude someone from inheriting – and perhaps there are people you may not wish to inherit. It’s all about peace of mind and protecting you and your family’s future. Once it’s done you can forget about it, knowing everything is in place and your family will have clear directions on how to deal with your affairs. It reduces misunderstandings and disputes later on.
What happens to my estate if I don’t have a will?
When you die without a will, the law will decide who should benefit from all your hard work and successes in life. Your family will have no control whatsoever over who inherits what you own. The rules are strict.
Spouses and partners don’t necessarily receive everything. They will receive a certain prescribed amount to begin with and then a further proportion later. Charities, friends and unmarried partners will receive nothing. If you’re legally married and you want your partner to inherit your full estate, that won’t happen either if there are children or other beneficiaries.
There’s a detailed family tree of who receives what when you die intestate. If you’ve got vulnerable dependents that you wanted to take care of, or young children or relatives, they may not necessarily benefit.
Without a will you can’t make specific gifts of items, money or property to charities or friends. And even if you’ve got no living relatives, you may want to avoid the Crown taking everything you’ve worked for.
If you’re a parent of young children, without a will you have no control of who looks after them should anything happen to you. In such circumstances the court may appoint a guardian on your behalf – it could be someone that you wouldn’t have chosen.
Your family may have to use professionals to decide how the estate’s going to be distributed under these complicated rules. The charges could mount up considerably, leaving less for your family if you haven’t got a will.
Wills aren’t regulated. What does this mean?
Solicitors are regulated but will writers don’t have to be. The law in England and Wales allows anyone to write a will. But it’s so important to ensure that your will is legally valid and does what you want it to do, by using a professional.
Will Power is a member of a professional body called the Institute of Professional Will Writers (IPW), which was founded in 1991 as a self-regulatory body to safeguard the public from unqualified practitioners and unethical business practices.
The Institute regulates and promotes professional will writing in England and Wales. As IPW members we are kept up to date with legislation and new developments, and we are required annually to do a programme of Continuing Professional Development. That involves a set number of learning hours to keep up to date with what’s going on, and share best practices with other will writers.
That enables us to retain our practising certificate. We also have professional indemnity insurance which covers us for a minimum of £2 million for each will written.
Will Power complies with the IPW Code of Practice which is approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute under its consumer code approval scheme.
Speak To an Expert
Where should I store my will?
You need to keep your will somewhere safe and secure, where it won’t be damaged or destroyed. It’s surprising how often people who made a will a few years ago actually forget where they’ve put them – sometimes they’ve even gone in the recycling bin!
It’s important to ensure that your executors – the people that are going to administer your estate when you die – know where to find your will and how to access it. If they can’t find your will when you pass away (which has happened many times in this business) you’ll be deemed to have died intestate and your beneficiaries could lose out.
So let them know in writing where it’s stored. It’s easy to forget verbal instructions. Don’t keep your will in a bank safety deposit box because when you die the bank won’t be able to open that box until probate is granted – but your executors can’t get probate without the will.
At Will Power we can store your will for you in our storage facility and send you a copy to keep at home. You and your executors will receive a letter explaining where the will is and how to get it when the time comes. There’s no charge for this. You can actually store any documents with no charge once you’ve set up the storage agreement – such as deeds or a list of assets. Some people like to store letters to their family or policy documents.
They can all be stored in our climate controlled vault, protected against moisture and dust for many years to come. Our storage facilities have state-of-the-art fire and intruder alarms, CCTV and electronic access controls. A barcoded will tracking system ensures your documents can be quickly and efficiently retrieved whenever you need them.
What’s the cost of having a will written?
There’s actually no charge for the appointments with one of our consultants or to talk to us on the phone in the office. If you decide to go ahead with one of our wills, then a standard will for a single person is £120 plus VAT. A joint will for a couple is £160 plus VAT. Our pricing list on the website explains costs for more complex trust wills that you may consider once you’ve had the discussion with a consultant.
What are the dangers of writing my own will?
A will is only capable of disposing of someone’s estate if it’s written in a certain form, correctly signed and witnessed. If one or more elements are missing, the will would be invalid and completely useless.
The law is therefore very specific. The Wills Act in 1837 outlines what a will needs in order to be lawful. It might be tempting to make a homemade will because it’s perceived to be cheaper, but this is really risky.
If a will isn’t prepared correctly it could be invalid – which in the long run makes it much more expensive, complicated and upsetting for the people that you leave behind. A professionally-made will makes it so much easier for people who are grieving.
There are strict rules about the way wills should be made and how they’re executed. If a will doesn’t comply with these strict provisions it will be rejected by the Probate Registry.
Other problems can arise in relation to the actual wording of the will. Many words and terms have specific meanings in law which are totally different from everyday use. When people attempt to amend their homemade wills by simply crossing out and changing sections, it’s unlikely that any of these alterations will be valid.
Often important information is omitted from homemade wills because you just wouldn’t know to put it in. It’s also very easy to use ambiguous or imprecise wording. So while a homemade will might seem to be good value, in reality it often means your wishes are not carried out. Around 90% of all litigation in relation to wills concerns homemade ones. It’s much better to come to Will Power than risk all that extra cost and stress.
How do I go about arranging a will?
Give us a call or use the enquiry form on our website. We’ll get back to you hopefully the same day and chat to you about what you want to achieve. You can make an appointment straight away, or go away and think about it.
We then arrange a no-obligation appointment with one of our expert consultants. We have all been working for Will Power for many years and have dealt with many different situations. We’ll discuss your circumstances and, with your agreement, start the ball rolling and prepare your will.
What else should we consider around wills?
Will drafting is a highly specialised field and there are hidden complexities that people often don’t appreciate. A professionally drafted will from Will Power can save you a significant amount of money in the long run, and protect your loved ones from stress and heartache – at a time when they are already dealing with bereavement and funeral arrangements.