10 Jun 2024

Where There's a Will
There's a Way to Get it Wrong

In Britain anyone can write a Will for payment. It doesn’t take any specialist qualifications or training to do so and Will writing isn’t regulated. 

In effect, there is nothing to prevent somebody from claiming to be an ‘expert’ in estate planning and charging for their services.

Even some of the big banks have gotten in on the act in recent times, offering cheap Wills and inserting clauses appointing themselves as an executor so that they can claim thousands of pounds when a customer dies.

In July 2023, the Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into Will writing after the law regulator found ‘systemic problems’ across the entire industry. Some Will writing firms had reportedly been using cold calling, high pressure doorstep selling and offers of heavy discounts to target older and vulnerable people. Some customers were charged for Wills that companies subsequently failed to deliver. Others were promised a cheap, no-frills service but were hit with hefty hidden fees. Perhaps most shockingly of all, some beneficiaries found that the Will their loved one had paid for, was in fact, invalid.

In a survey of 1000 people:

67% of consumers wrongly believe that Will writers are solicitors

82% thought that training and qualifications were required to become a Will writer

Many people are unaware that Will writing is unregulated.

One survey found that 67 per cent of consumers wrongly believe that all Will writers are solicitors. In the same survey, 82 per cent of the 1,000 people polled thought that training and qualifications were required in order to become a Will writer. Some end up using a Will writer because of glossy online marketing and ads in the backs of newspapers promising a cheap and cheerful service that comes hassle free. However, a survey by Which? magazine found that the average price of a Will written by a Will writer was only marginally cheaper than a Will written by a qualified solicitor.

It may cost a few extra pounds upfront to employ a solicitor to write your Will, but you will at least have peace of mind that there will be no hidden costs incurred by family members because of a badly written Will. Solicitors are regulated, have relevant qualifications, undergo continual training and if things go wrong the Solicitors Regulation Authority can always step in and investigate.

Problems with Wills often only come to light once a person has died. Delays in Probate alone can incur additional fees running into tens of thousands of pounds. In worst case scenarios beneficiaries can be left with nothing. As the Law Society warns, ‘consumers face potential risks when using unregulated Will writers or services. This may result in writing a Will that is not legally valid. In this case, your estate will not be inherited exactly as you wish’.

A Will is one of the most important documents that a person will write in their lifetime.

Therefore we would advise using a solicitor rather than a Will writer when you are thinking of making one. If you already have a Will that was written by a Will writer, we recommend that you just ask a solicitor to look at it, to ensure that everything is in order.

As well as getting the Will written, it’s important to regularly review it to make sure it stays up to date with any changes in the law. For example the Finance Act of 2008 permits a transfer of any unused nil rate band to the surviving spouse/civil partner’s estate on death. Additionally, in 2017 a main residence nil rate band became available. This means less Inheritance Tax may be paid when a residential property has been the deceased’s residence at some point and when it is left to a direct descendant.

In other words;

if your Will was written before 2008 or 2017 it may no longer reflect your current circumstances. If in any doubt it’s worth speaking to an expert - a qualified expert, rather than a self-proclaimed one!

FiveWays specialist advisors will be more than happy to point you in the direction of a solicitor who can help you with your Will, so please feel free to get in touch.

Related Articles

30 Jan 2024

Posted by Jon Lawson

7 Jun 2023

Posted by Jon Lawson

22 Mar 2023

Posted by Jon Lawson