Our wills and probate expert, Chaanah Patton, answers your questions about making or reviewing a will. If you have a query you would like her to address, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Chaanah kicks off her blog by highlighting the reasons for making a will and how to pick the right adviser.
So, why is it so important to make a will?
Drawing up a will, or wills if you are a couple, is one of the biggest financial decisions you ever take.
There are various reasons why it is crucial to make clear how you wish your assets to be distributed, but here are my top five:
- If you die without a will, there are certain rules (known as intestacy) that dictate who receives your estate. In these circumstances, money and possessions may not be divided how you would wish and this can have upsetting consequences for those you leave behind.
- Couples who are not married or in a civil partnership do not automatically inherit from each other. A death may, therefore, create difficulties for the surviving partner.
- If you have children, you can use a will to appoint legal guardians, should anything happen to you before they reach adulthood. You can also provide for them financially and ensure they cannot access the funds until they are older.
- With the correct advice, it is possible to use a will to reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable on your estate.
- Getting married or entering into a civil partnership invalidates any will made prior to the ceremony, so you need a new one, even if its contents are to remain the same.
There are so many places offering will-writing services, how do I choose the right one?
Ensuring your will has been properly written and is legally binding is often overlooked, even though it can have the same effect as not having one at all.
A large number of organisations claim to offer cheap probate advice, but before instructing a high street or internet discounter, there a number of important factors to consider.
Crucially, it is unlikely they will be any cheaper than a solicitor and you may be surprised to find that, unlike law firms, they are often unregulated. This means if you are dissatisfied, your only recourse is through the organisation’s internal complaints procedure.
Also in contrast to solicitors, some organisations are not required to hold professional indemnity insurance, which is designed to give clients peace of mind. This has resulted in failed companies leaving customers significantly out of pocket, with missing or badly drafted documents and limited form of redress.
We have a team of specialists working exclusively in this area of the law. Some of our experts have undertaken extra training to become members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and we have a contentious probate department to guide you through the difficulties of resolving disputes that arise from the distribution of an estate.
Almost anyone can claim to write a will, but if you are serious about looking after your loved ones, be sure to do your research before deciding who to turn for assistance.