5 reasons to use a solicitor when writing your Will
If you are planning to make a Will, you have probably had someone asking you “Why use a solicitor? You can download a template online.” Or they may suggest you hire a Will writer who, as a non-professional, is likely to charge less.
However, just being legally valid isn’t everything. There are many things that a solicitor can provide that won’t be available from a Will writer or with a DIY will.
Here are five of the most important:
1. A solicitor knows how to word a Will
A Will is a legal document and as such, it needs to be planned and written carefully, in valid legal terms. This does not mean it necessarily has to have long Latin words in every sentence, but it does need to say exactly what you mean, with no room for misunderstanding.
A Will can be misunderstood, no matter how uncomplicated it may be. One of the shortest Wills on record was written in 1906 and simply said “All to Mother”. Though that seems unarguable, it actually ended up being contested by the man’s wife. The reason was that he sometimes referred to his wife as “Mother”, since she was the mother of his children, so she had grounds for arguing it could refer to her.
A poorly worded Will could end up being both costly and distressing for your heirs. Fighting over a contested Will can mean substantial legal fees, which can seriously eat into the inheritance.
It can also mean considerable delays before the assets are paid out, and this may cause hardship to dependents. For instance, if you have intended to leave a large part of your estate in trust to children who are still minors when you die, but have worded the Will in such a way that this is contested, they could spend a considerable time with nothing to live on.
A solicitor will recognise all the pitfalls of vague or inaccurate wording and be able to steer you to a watertight Will that cannot be contested. That peace of mind is surely worth a modest fee.
2. A solicitor has extensive legal knowledge
Some Wills are straightforward — or certainly seem to be. Some Wills are complex. Either case, though, would benefit from a solicitor’s legal knowledge.
This is more obvious with complex Wills. If, for instance, your estate is likely to be subject to Inheritance Tax, a solicitor will be able to advise you on how best to minimise the effect while remaining entirely compliant with the law.
Other complex circumstances that make a solicitor’s involvement vital include:
- If you want to make arrangements for a business you own.
- If you need to set up a Trust, for instance for minors or heirs with serious disabilities.
- If you have children from a previous marriage.
- If you have non-UK investments or properties, in which case the Will needs to be compliant with two or more legal systems.
In any of these cases, a DIY Will or using a will writer puts you at serious risk of bringing up potential problems for your heirs.
At worst, a DIY Will could actually turn out to be invalid, if you are not aware of the precise procedure. This could mean you will die intestate, which can lead to untold complications in the disposal of your estate. Your Will may be genuinely uncomplicated, but having a solicitor work with you means you have peace of mind.
3. A solicitor knows the right questions to ask
Most people only create a Will once or twice in their lives, whereas a specialist solicitor will have advised on hundreds. Many people go into making a Will with a reasonable idea of what they want to achieve, but not always a good idea of how to get there.
A solicitor will sit with you and work through what you are proposing to put in your Will. Needless to say, no reputable solicitor will attempt to influence your decisions, but they will ask questions and offer suggestions to focus your thinking and make sure that the Will really does what you intended.
4. More than just a Will
A law firm with a dedicated Wills department can offer far more than simply writing the Will. You may, for instance, also want to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney, and a solicitor will be able to arrange this at the same time as creating your Will.
Your Will needs to be safely stored and easy to recover when it is required, and that is not always easy, especially if you move several times. One document can be lost, or your heirs may not know where you keep it. It is often more convenient to store your Will with the solicitor, who will keep it safely and be able to produce it quickly and without fuss.
In addition, a solicitor can act as executor for your Will. You can, of course, appoint friends or family members as executors, but it is hard to predict how far their circumstances may have changed by the time the Will is executed.
5. Solicitors are regulated
The law in England and Wales allows anyone to write a Will. But it is important to get your Will right so that it is legally valid and does what you want it to.
A solicitor is bound by a strict Code of Conduct under the Solicitors Regulation Authority and if they are a member, The Law Society, and the Legal Ombudsman can offer you support should you need advice. Whereas will-writing companies are not regulated.
We can help
At Osborne Morris & Morgan, we have a wealth of experience in helping clients protect their loved ones and put their affairs in order. We are also proud to have been accredited with prestigious accreditations, including the Lexcel Excellence Quality Mark in legal practice management and client care.
To speak to our specialist Wills, Probate & Powers of Attorney team, either call us on 01525 378177 or contact us online.