Wills for free: good value or a false economy? (2023 edition)

 10 October 2023
Wills for free: good value or a false economy? (2023 edition)

To celebrate free wills month, we’re looking at when and why you need a will - and the benefits of having it written by a professional will writer.

A free will is definitely better than no will at all, but free or low-cost wills are usually quite basic. If you want to ensure your estate benefits everyone you want it to, from grandchildren to charities, a professionally written will is far more comprehensive and less likely to be contested.

National Free Wills Month

October is National Free Wills Month, when solicitors and will writers across the UK write simple wills for those aged 55 and over for free. During Free Wills Month, you can have a simple will written or updated free of charge by participating solicitors.

Why do charities also offer to write a free will for you?

By offering a free will writing service, charities hope that you will leave a gift in your will to the charity as a result. If you opt for a professional will writer instead, you’ll get expert advice and a comprehensive will tailored to your individual circumstances. And you can leave any gifts you wish to as many charities as you wish!

As the Free Wills Month website says:

“Those taking up the offer are under no obligation to leave a gift to one of the Free Wills Month charities, however, we earnestly hope that many will see this as a chance to help their favourite cause.”

It’s a great campaign to encourage those without a will to write one for the first time, and to help charities potentially secure legacies in that will. That is absolutely to be encouraged. However…

Simple may not be enough

The Free Wills campaign only offers free simple wills, and in our experience, most wills need to be more comprehensive and more detailed.

If you want to take care of all your loved ones with meaningful and protected legacies, you’ll need a will that is clear, unequivocable and difficult to dispute.

  • You may wish to include a clarity statement, to make your bequests crystal clear.
  • You may want Trusts to keep assets and monies ring-fenced for specific beneficiaries.
  • You may have a blended family, where you want to specifically include, and maybe exclude, a number of blood relatives and in-laws.

These provisions would not be covered in a simple will.

Supporting your favourite charities

Any will can contain a legacy or bequest to as many charities as you wish. It doesn’t need to be a national charity either: you can leave a legacy for smaller local charities that might struggle to serve those in need without donations and legacies like yours.

It needn’t be a large sum either; small legacies can soon add up to a lot if enough people make them.

Cost of will writing

Many people may be tempted by a free will. However, whilst you may save money in the short term, your family and beneficiaries may pay the price in the future.

According to the UK Inheritance Disputes Report 2022,

  • 3 in 4 people are likely to experience a will, inheritance, or probate dispute in their lifetime.
  • Inheritance disputes among siblings are the most common form of dispute.
  • 1 in 4 who disputed their inheritance said it was because the deceased was coerced.
  • 1 in 3 disputes initiated by non-family claimants were said to be ‘colleagues’ of the deceased.

Think local for your will

As a local estate planning company, we know the value of writing your will with a local will writer. Tempting as these free and other online options are, nothing replaces sitting down with someone who helps you take a holistic view of your estate. Together, you can work out what you have, what you want to leave, and ways to make sure it reaches the people you want to benefit.

A will is a living document; just as your life changes, it should change too. You may want to adjust it to reflect a change in your financial position, or to include new family members including grandchildren. A local will writer is there to help you now and into the future.

You may also need to change the named executor/s should they become unable to carry out this highly responsible job.

Going back to sa will writer who already knows your situation and who drew up your initial will can save hours of their time, and therefore cost you less in the long run.

Will storage

If you’re a fan of murder mysteries, you’ll know how important it is that your executor can locate a valid and up to date will quickly and easily. Your local will writer or a firm of solicitors can keep a signed copy of your will for you. (If you have them write your will, they usually don’t charge extra for this.)

Just make sure your executor/s know where the will is stored.  Rest assured that if your will writer retires or your solicitors merge with another firm, all wills are transferred to a new firm for safekeeping.

Don’t hide a will at home, especially somewhere so obscure it would take Miss Marple AND Hercule Poirot to find it! It’s also important to only have one copy of your will, because only the most recent will be valid. However, two copies can confuse matter considerably, as the family of legendary singer Aretha Franklin discovered to their cost.

Will writing in Waterlooville

If you’d like to write a will, you’re welcome to come to our offices here in Waterlooville. We can also offer a remote will writing service - just contact us for details.

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During our initial discussion Panthera (Paul) fully explained the Will making process. We were made aware that our assets could be exposed to various risks such as Care Costs. Panthera (Paul) advised on how we could protect these assets by setting up Family Trusts. Having decided to go down this route Panthera (Paul) provided all the legal documentation in a timely manner despite having to work within the constraints of Covid-19 restrictions.

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