Why do I need one?

There is one very obvious but seldom expressed reason why one should leave a Will, and it sounds trite – but it needs saying. You should make a Will because, bluntly, one day you are going to die – and it is the responsible thing to do to leave things in good order for those left behind.

But I want my assets to go to my next of kin so can I not simply rely on the laws of intestacy to ensure that that happens?

The laws of intestacy are currently being reviewed. The existing law is complex and depending upon your circumstances the regulations may but more probably will not produce the result you want.

  • If, for example, you are a couple but unmarried, the position of the survivor of you will be very different from that of a widow or widower.
  • If you are married and have step-children their position will be very different from that of your own.
  • If most of the value of your estate lies in your home it may be that the survivor of you could be forced out of the house to satisfy the financial entitlement of other family members.
  • The laws of intestacy are not designed to achieve the most financially beneficial outcome for your beneficiaries. They are not set up to save exposure to tax.
  • The laws of intestacy do not deal with how personal items should be shared out, or with funeral arrangements – and these are common bones of contention for family members.

So what can a Will achieve for me?

  • A properly drawn Will will ensure that your exposure to tax (Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax) is kept to a minimum.
  • If you are a couple it will, if properly drawn, also ring fence the assets of the first of you to die against absorption in residential or care home fees for the survivor of you.
  • It will ensure that your affairs are dealt with for you after your death by someone you have chosen and trust.
  • It will fit your own particular family, financial and business circumstances exactly.
  • Potential beneficiaries of an estate are often very anxious that they do not inadvertently deal with the affairs of the deceased (including funeral arrangements) in a way of which the deceased would have disapproved. A clearly drawn Will will set out exactly what your wishes are and remove that very real anxiety for those involved in sorting out your estate.
  • If the situation of any beneficiary is less than straightforward – for example if they are going through a divorce or bankruptcy proceedings, have a business which is failing or are in receipt of means-tested benefits – then you can arrange for them still to benefit from your estate without what they are left being vulnerable to a claim by a third party involved in those situations. Similarly, if a beneficiary suffers from a disability or is unable for any other reason to manage money for themselves, their interest can be protected for them.

I want to save money. I have seen ‘DIY’ Will kits advertised in the press and at the newsagents. Why should I not use one of those?

Because, for most people, the use of these is ‘penny wise, pound foolish’! It is not so much what you do say on the forms as what you omit that can have dire consequences in both how the estate is distributed and what tax will be payable. If you get it wrong (and in over thirty years of practice I have seen literally dozens of heart-breaking problems caused by poorly drafted home-made Wills) there is no comeback for those who suffer as a result of the errors made. And even where the faults can be remedied it will cost a great deal more to sort them out than the money ‘saved’ by not having the Will properly drawn in the first place.

I have heard that Will-Writers are cheaper than solicitors.

Some are, but by no means all. – And as the law stands anyone can set themselves up as a Will – Writer even if they have no experience at all. Of those who are ‘trained’ many attend the briefest of courses – sometimes only a day - before starting in practice – and there is no requirement that they carry any sort of indemnity cover, so if something does go wrong the chances are that you will receive little or more probably no compensation.

Solicitors train for a minimum of five years for a reason! The laws governing Wills, Trusts and Succession are very complex and it is easy to get things wrong if one does not understand how they interact. Solicitors specialising in ‘Private Client’ law understand the pitfalls to avoid in drafting an efficient Will and what legislation can be used to the maximum advantage of their client and their particular situation. We are regulated by our professional body, the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, who ensure that proper standards are maintained – and we are obliged by law to carry substantial indemnity insurance so that, if an error should be made, anyone disadvantaged can be properly compensated.

© Helen Starkie Solicitor | Powers Of Attorney Bath, Solicitor Bristol, Lawyer Warminster, Lasting Powers Of Attorney Frome, Wills & Probate Bath, Court Of Protection Bristol, Protective Property Trusts Warminster, Powers Of Attorney Bristol, Frome and Warminster - 2017. All Rights Reserved.
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