20 Dec DIY wills – when are they right and when should they be avoided?
A will is one of the most important legal documents you can have. It is an essential way of ensuring any savings and assets get distributed to family and friends according to your wishes. But with nearly two thirds of adults in the UK without a will, are DIY kits a solution? And do they provide adequate cover for you and your loved ones?
How much does a will cost?
Many put off preparing a will. Some are worried it will cost too much, others don’t want to face the inevitable and think about what they’d like to happen to their assets after their death. Both are valid concerns. But the implications of dying without a will in place can have far-reaching consequences in addition to putting extra stress and strain on those closest to you at an already emotional time. The basics on costs:
- A DIY will kit could cost you as little as £15
- Depending on the level of work needed, a will prepared by a professional could cost £100-£300
- If complex planning and inheritance tax advice is needed, a professional may charge closer to £600 (or more)
Looking solely at the initial outlay, a £600 solicitor bill compared with £15 for an off-the-shelf template may seem like an opportunity to save money. However, does it provide you with the level of security a well-written and correctly administered will does?
When to write your own will
Writing your own will is an option if your wishes are very simple. For example, you may be married and have no children, and want to leave everything to your spouse. If your situation is any more complex than that, you probably should consider using a professional to prepare your will.
When you shouldn’t write your own will
- You aren’t married to your partner
- You have stepchildren
- You have people who are financially dependent on you (other than your immediate family)
- You have foreign investments or bank accounts
- You own property abroad
- You’re trying to reduce your inheritance tax bill
Why pay more for a will?
- By appointing a professional, you are paying for the right legal advice. They can revise your will when personal circumstances change and will ensure your will works for your specific requirements.
- A solicitor will ensure errors aren’t made and that the strict witnessing rules are followed correctly. Solicitors are members of a professional association, and many practices offer protection for up to £2 million in the event of paperwork not being correctly completed. With a DIY pack, if the will is challenged you have nothing to fall back on.
- As trained professionals, they are best placed to write custom clauses for your will. While this service does come at a cost, poorly drafted or ineffective DIY wills can result in prolonged probate ordeals. This can see up to 10% of the value of a person’s estate being absorbed in additional fees (with average estates in the UK standing at £160,000, this could equate to £16,000-worth of probate fees).
Finding the right professional
If you choose to appoint a professional to prepare your will ask family, friends, and colleagues for suitable recommendations. Be sure you also choose a firm accredited by the Law Society.
While it is fair to say that it may be cheaper to avoid professional legal advice when compiling a will and that DIY kits do have a place, think long and hard about taking this approach; a simple mistake could mean your family and friends pay a much higher price in the long run.