This month is Free Wills Month. You’ve probably seen the adverts from various charities promoting how you can get a Will written for free, and perhaps help the charity with a gift in the process.
What is Free Wills Month?
Free Wills Month is a national initiative where those aged 55 or over can have a simple Will written or updated for free. Partnering with some of the UK’s biggest charities such as Age UK, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Marie Curie and The Royal British Legion, participating solicitors will create your Will for free in the hope that you might leave a bequest or gift to a charity of your choice. There’s no obligation to do so, but you will need to book one of the limited appointments available in your area.
Should I opt for a free Will?
Let’s start with the main point; any Will is better than no Will at all. So if you don’t have a Will, make one as soon as possible! A Will drawn up with professional help is far better than a DIY or online Will, where you might make a mistake that will have major ramifications long after you are gone.
It’s important to note that the Free Wills Month offer is for a simple Will. This is exactly what it sounds like, a simple, straightforward document that lays down your main wishes. That may be OK for some, but if you have any assets, pensions, property, extended family or want to create a lasting legacy, the simple Will format will not usually be sufficient.
Do I need a solicitor?
Will writing is not regulated, so that’s why you can do it yourself, use an online service, go to a solicitor, or use the services of a professional Will writer. As long as the will is properly completed and witnessed, all of these methods can create a legal Will.
The advantages of using a professional Will writer is that they know precisely what format your wishes should be presented, understand the terminology, and also have the ability to update and write additions to existing Will such as codices and Will Clarity statements.
Will writing and estate planning
At Panthera Estate Planning, we add another dimension to Will writing by tying it in to your estate planning. This ensures consistency across all methods of securing your legacy. So, the wishes laid down in your Will can properly align with the financial provisions you’ve put in place. It can accurately reflect your portfolio of assets, from property to antiques. It can also ensure that your legacy is properly allocated to those you want to benefit, and exclude those you don’t.
A Will is for life
A Will is probably the most important document you can create, and it’s with you for life. So, as your circumstances change, you should regularly review your Will and update it after major events such as the birth of children, sale of a business, acquisition of property, etc.
Wills and marriage
Many people don’t realise that when you get married in England and Wales, any existing Will becomes invalid unless it specifically mentions your forthcoming marriage. (You will need to specify whom you are going to marry!)
We always suggest you make a new Will when you marry, remarry or enter into a civil partnership, especially if you have children. The same applies to co-habiting with someone, as a non-married partner will not have the same protection in law as a spouse if you die without leaving a Will.
Marriage and divorce
When you get divorced, it won’t revoke your Will completely. Instead, your ex-spouse will not automatically receive anything from your will as a beneficiary, and can’t act as a Trustee or an Executor. If you wish your ex to benefit, you’ll need to specify this in your new Will. More importantly, you should write a new Will which lays down your wishes for your first marriage children, to protect your legacy to them should you or your ex remarry.
Leaving a gift to charity
The main aim of Free Wills Month is to help people write a Will, and to help charities too. According to MSE the average bequest people leave after using the Free Wills Month offer is around £300.
Of course, you can leave a gift to any charities you wish in any Will you create. You don’t need to make a Will during Free Wills Month, or use a Will writing service offered by a charity. For example, Cancer Research UK offer a free simple Will to anyone aged over 18 all year round. No donation is requested but a bequest for the charity is ‘hoped for’.
Instead, you can increase the value of your bequest and save the charity the cost of getting your Will written. Simply use a professional Will writing service like ours that can create a comprehensive will to cover all your wishes, and leave a bequest anyway. The charity then gets your bequest "for free".
Witnessing a will
COVID-19 has changed the way Wills are witnessed in the UK. Previously, two people would need to witness a Will being signed in person for it to be valid. During lockdown, this became practically impossible. So, as of last month, the Government has put new legislation in place to allow video-witnessing of Wills, and backdated the legislation to 31 January 2020. This enables professionals such as ourselves to be an impartial witness to your Will without needing to be there in person.
Need to make or update your Will?
Call us. We have helped hundreds of people create comprehensive and compliant Wills that accurately set down their wishes and pass a lasting legacy on to those they love. And we can do the same for you.