Writing a will is one of the most important things you can do to safeguard your loved ones in the event of your death. It’s such a small thing, but it could save endless heartache and stress. The good news is that these days you can create one quickly, painlessly and it doesn’t even have to cost you a penny
October is Free Wills Month: a campaign that provides free will-writing services up and down England and Wales (sorry Scotland) every March and October, with the aim to obtain donations for various charities.
Places are filling up fast, but check the details on this website: http://www.freewillsmonth.org.uk/. If you’re too late for this month, don’t worry, just make sure you’re signed up for it next March.
Hearing about this prompted me to explore the possibilities of low-or-no-cost will writing…
If you have assets, savings and/or a business and want to specify what should be done with them after you die, then you need a will. Without one, it may not only be your soul in limbo: your affairs could be there too! Sometimes for years.
The first function of a will is to name your executors (those who’ll manage the financial side of things after your death). Your solicitor may recommend himself or herself as an executor and some will add themselves by default – but it doesn’t have to be so. It can be anyone you trust and by actually naming someone, you’ll avoid extra hidden fees that would have to be paid in the event of your solicitor taking it upon himself or herself to execute your will.
The second function of a will is to allocate your estate to those persons named, as per your instructions.
The third function is to alleviate inheritance tax (where you pay 40% of any assets worth over £325,000). Without a will your estate is going to be hit with maximum force for inheritance tax. Yes, I know: “death and taxes”…
So how do you go about creating a will?
The most obvious option is to have one professionally drawn up by a solicitor. The downside to this This can often cost in excess of £200 for the most simple of wills. If the cost of this puts you off, fear not. Here are some alternative ways of obtaining free or discounted will-writing services to save you forking out your hard-earned cash…
1. Charities offering free will-writing schemes
In exchange for a donation, lots of charities provide free will-writing schemes through their solicitors. Free Wills Month – as mentioned at the start of the article – is one such organisation with charitable intent.
If you’re over 55 and in England or Wales (Scottish readers see Will Relief Scotland), all you do is enter your postcode on their website. A list of solicitors that are taking part will then pop up. Make an appointment and you’re away. The solicitor may well encourage you to leave a donation to a charity in your will. This option is obviously better for simple wills.
If you missed out on this October’s offer, Will Aid is a nationwide scheme that’s run every November. There’s no minimum age with this one, and over 1,000 solicitors take part. The expected donation is £95, divvied up between ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save the Children UK, SCIAF, Sightsavers, and Trocaire. It raised £2 million last year.
Cancer Research UK and the Stroke Association also offer free simple wills to over-55s and over-60s respectively. Again, both are a free service, but the objective is the hope that you’ll bequest a donation to the relevant charity in your will.
2. Get a free or discounted will through your employer or trade union
You may already be entitled to a free will. It’s worth checking to see if either your employer or your trade union provides help in the creation of a wills to certain people that qualify for one.
This may not always be a free service, but more often that not it’s heavily discounted. Additionally, if your employer provides a good legal service, they may offer will writing as part of it.
3. Check to see if a free will is included in your home or car insurance
Some home or car insurance policies include a will-writing service. These are often in the form of templates that you fill in with your details, and submit. Your insurance provider’s legal team then checks them, and once done, you make it legal by the power of your signature.
Obviously if you have seven business and as many houses, this isn’t a viable option, but it’s perfectly suitable for simpler wills.
4. Don’t qualify for a free will? Use low-cost solicitors
There are many will-writing services that are tailored for those on a budget, but who may not qualify for a free will via the above avenues.
Which? for example, currently offer simple will-writing services that start at just £30 – but these do go quickly. They provide a voucher code that lowers the cost of a single or mirror will at the payment part of the transaction. Enter WWMLLRS2014 for a single will or WWMLLRP2014 for a mirror will, until 31 October.
Similarly, Saga offers discounts to existing customers aged 50 or over, and not just simple wills either.
Failing these options, you might want to Google for a list of online solicitors who offer an online will-writing service. Being online, their prices are often cheaper than bricks-and-mortar office-based solicitors.
5. Go local and shop around with TakeLegalAdvice.com
This option may not provide you with mega-savings, but if you’re turned off by the idea of an online solicitor and would rather have your will created in a face-to-face, in-person, office-based manner, then you might want to use TakeLegalAdvice.com.
This is a company that puts you in touch with local solicitors, thereby allowing you to get a set of quotes and to shop around for the best value deal.
6. DIY wills
If you don’t qualify for any of the above, or you simply want the legal document without any more hassle than simply filling in some forms yourself, then there are a variety of options available for you to create a will DIY-style.
Simply buy a ‘template’ will – either a hard-copy one from all good stationery shops, or a digital one online – and fill it in at home. Obviously this comes with the caveat that mistakes may prove costly, and these DIY wills do not come with the protection solicitors enjoy from the wealth of ombudsmans and societies out there.
The most well known template is from Lawpack, costing a little under a tenner.
To create a DIY will, you must be 18+, and it must be dated and witnessed, and it must clearly say it replaces all previous versions. Be mindful of mistakes (even spelling mistakes) and be specific. DIY wills are only really intended for simple wills, so if you require anything other than this, you really should have a solicitor do it.
And there you have it: 6 methods of creating a will for little or no money. Always remember to update your will when you marry, divorce, have kids, or to recognise your co-habitant significant other (who otherwise would not be recognised in the eyes of the law).
I’ll leave you with a quote from Woody Allen: ‘I am not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.’
Need to just finish up here with a ‘science bit’:
While every effort’s been made to ensure this article’s accuracy, it doesn’t constitute legal advice tailored to your individual circumstances. If you act on it, you acknowledge that you do so at your own risk. We can’t assume responsibility and don’t accept liability for any damage or loss which may arise as a result of your reliance upon it.