A Will is one of the most important legal documents you can create in life, as it serves to protect your financial assets after you have passed away. Despite this, a large majority of the British population currently have no valid Will in place.
Whether this is due to a misunderstanding of the law, avoidance of the subject matter, or just simple procrastination, failing to make a Will can cause a lot of problems. Not only can a lack of proper estate planning end up costing family members and other potential beneficiaries their inheritance, it can also cause unnecessary conflict between your loved ones after you are gone.
The more assets we accrue throughout our lives, the more essential a Will becomes and dying without one becomes a worrying prospect. Should you die without leaving a valid Will, your estate will be divided according to the rules of intestacy, which can mean your assets going to people you would not have intended.
That’s why at Pickering & Butters, we help people from all walks of life to plan for the future. Every day, our specialist Wills solicitors assist clients in the drafting of their Wills, providing the pragmatic advice they need to protect their assets before it’s too late.
Our Will solicitors can provide clear, sensible advice on making a Will and all other aspects of estate planning, including tax planning, setting up trusts and creating a Lasting Power of Attorney where required.
Whatever your needs, we are here to guide you through your estate planning with sensitivity and pragmatic legal expertise, giving you peace of mind for the future of your estate and loved ones.
Get expert help with making a Will
Why choose Pickering & Butters Will solicitors?
With so much at stake, it makes sense to choose an accomplished solicitor you can trust to prioritise your interests. That’s where we come in. At Pickering & Butters, our team of Wills solicitors are dedicated to assisting our clients through the process of Will writing, working meticulously but efficiently to ensure no stone is left unturned.
From high-net worth estates to those with more modest assets, our solicitors have vast experience in preparing wills that can accommodate a wide range of financial or logistical situations, right up to the most complex. We have particular expertise in areas such as farm inheritance planning, inheritance tax planning and care fee planning as well as more straightforward matters
While our team consists of industry leading specialists, our approachable and friendly nature allows our clients to feel comfortable discussing their objectives with us, knowing that their Will is in safe hands.
Before the drafting takes place, our Wills solicitors take the time to gain an in-depth understanding of your individual situation, from your family history to your personal requirements. That way, you can guarantee that your Will enshrines your precise wishes and that these will be carried out to the letter after you have died.
Making a Will explained
What to include in your Will
Before setting out to make a Will, you should take the time to consider all the assets you own and who should benefit from your estate. Financial assets could include property (residential or commercial), savings, your vehicle or vehicles and any shares you have in a business.
As well as family members and friends, you may want to donate an amount of your estate to a charity of your choice.
If you have any children who would be below the age of 18 when you die, your Will should also state who will act as their legal guardian once you are gone.
You may also wish to make arrangements to assist your children financially in the future by setting up a trust, such as one they can access when they turn 18 or 25. You can also make arrangements for any beneficiaries with special needs through the use of trusts.
Other considerations to make before instructing your solicitor include whom you would like to appoint as the executor of the Will. The executor will be responsible for the administration of your estate after you have passed – they will be the one to ensure it is distributed according to the wishes set out in the Will, so choose wisely. You may appoint multiple executors (up to 4).
You can also specify in your Will any particular wishes you may have for your funeral arrangements and how you wish your body to be dealt with after death.
The process of writing a Will
When you instruct one of our expert Wills solicitors, we will first discuss with you your situation and provide tailored advice where needed. You may wish to discuss inheritance tax, particular family circumstances and possibly trusts. These are all aspects we will be happy to guide you through before the Will itself is created.
Next, your solicitor will draft your Will based on your requirements. Once complete, this will be sent to you for you to review in case any amendments are needed. If no changes are necessary, your solicitor will prepare a final version of the Will.
You will then, normally, be required to attend a final appointment with your Wills solicitor in order to sign the document. You will then be given a copy of your Will, and our solicitors will safeguard the original within a secure storage facility in our office. Your Will is now legal and valid, and will ensure that your chosen beneficiaries will inherit from your estate.
Storing your Will
It is essential to make sure that a copy of your Will is stored securely and that your executors can access this copy easily when the time comes. We will be happy to retain and securely store your Will for you, which we can then release to the named executors when required.
The dangers of DIY Wills & low cost online Will writing services
The process of writing a Will can be straightforward, however, mistakes are easily made when people opt for the DIY approach.
Whilst online Will writing services offer a bargain on prices, the slightest error can result in an invalid Will – and if you aren’t aware that it’s invalid, your intended beneficiaries could face the same outcome as if a will had never been created at all.
Seeking the legal support of a specialist solicitor will provide the peace of mind that your assets are protected no matter what should happen.
Dying without a Will & intestacy rules
It is a common misconception that if you die without leaving a will, your spouse or civil partner will routinely receive your entire estate. However, this is not always the case and, depending on the circumstances, those that you care about may find that they do not receive the assets you intended for them to have. This is because the laws of Intestacy dictate how an estate is divided when a will has not been made.
According to the laws of intestacy, if a person dies without a valid Will, the first £270,000 from their estate is automatically given to their spouse or civil partner.. After this, the estate is distributed in accordance with rules dependent upon whether or not you have left children.
Therefore, having a valid Will in place is essential to ensure that the decisions you make regarding your financial assets are honoured.
If you are supporting a loved one who has lost the mental capacity to make decisions about their own personal and financial affairs, this can present a problem for estate planning.
Where they do not have a valid Will, you can apply to the Court of Protection to make a ‘Statutory Will’. This will set out exactly how your loved one’s estate should be divided when they pass away, providing certainty for the future and minimising the risk of family disputes.
Our team have extensive experience in making applications to the Court of Protection,. We can guide you through the whole process, helping you to get the right planning in place for the future of your loved one’s estate.
Frequently asked questions
Does everyone need a Will?
Many people think they only need to make a Will when they get married or buy their first home, but the reality is that everyone should think about making a Will.
It’s often only when people come to make a Will that they realise all the different assets they have that would need to be dealt with in the event of their death. Whether it be savings, your car, furniture or any other assets, these things have value and someone will need to decide what happens to them if you were to pass away.
Making a Will removes any uncertainty and can make things much simpler and less stressful for whoever has to deal with your estate.
Do you need a lawyer to make a Will?
In theory, you can make a Will yourself, sometimes referred to as a ‘DIY Will’ and there are various Will templates online that people sometimes use when doing this. However, you are taking a significant risk by not having the advice of a legal expert when making your Will.
The problem with using a DIY Will template is that they are very general and not tailored to your circumstances, so it is highly likely that important issues may not be considered. A legal professional can ensure your Will reflects your needs and those of your loved ones, as well as ensuring that all of the legal details are correctly covered so your Will is legally sound.
An expert Will writing solicitor can also advise you on issues such as reducing your Inheritance Tax liability as well as any other specific issues you need help with, such as making sure any children under 18 or vulnerable loved one’s are provided for.
How much does it cost to make a Will?
The cost of making a Will generally depends on the complexity of your estate and any specific issues that need to be considered.
In some cases, we can offer a fixed fee Will writing service for straightforward estates, giving you certainty over the costs involved.
Where there are more complex issues to deal with, we will work to a pre-agreed hourly rate with all billable work agreed in advance. This means you can get exactly the support you need for your Will and stay in control of the costs at all times.
To find out more about our Will pricing, please get in touch.
Our Will solicitors will be happy to discuss the likely costs involved in making your Will over the phone or by email. You can also take a look at our pricing for more general information about our legal fees.
What are the requirements for a Will to be valid?
For a Will to be considered legally valid, the following conditions must be met, the person making the Will (the ‘testator’) must:
- Be 18 or over
- Be ‘of sound mind’ i.e. fully aware of and able to understand the contents of the Will
- Not be under pressure to make the Will
The Will itself must be:
- In writing
- Signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses*
- Signed by the two witnesses in the presence of the testator
* The witnesses must not be beneficiaries of the Will or married to beneficiaries of the Will.
It is also recommended to make sure the Will is dated, although this is not a legal requirement. Including the date the Will is signed can help to avoid disputes over which is the most up-to-date version of a person’s Will if more than one version exists.
What assets should be included in a Will?
Anything of value that you own or have a financial interest in should be included in your Will, including:
- Shares and investments
- Insurance policies
- Intellectual property
Who inherits if there is no Will?
If you do not leave a valid Will, then who inherits will be determined by the government’s rules of intestacy. This sets out exactly who will inherit based on the value of your estate, whether you are married or in a civil partnership, whether you have children and what other relatives you have.
Generally, the rules of intestacy favour spouses and civil partners in the first instance, then children, then other relatives such as parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. This can cause problems, for example, if you have remarried and have children from a previous relationship who could lose out in favour of your new spouse.
Where should I store my Will?
It’s really important that your Executors are able to access your Will when you pass away, so you need to store it somewhere safe and accessible. It is normal to have the solicitor who made the Will for you keep a copy and you can also lodge a copy with your Probate Service for a small fee.
Make sure your Executors know where your Will is stored so that when they need it, they can easily get hold of it.
It is not a good idea to store your Will in a safety deposit box as your Executors will only be able to access this once probate has been granted, but they cannot apply for probate without your Will.
Can my Will be contested?
If you have a valid, up-to-date Will at the time of your death, it is hard for anyone to successfully contest it. However, there are certain limited circumstances where a challenge may be possible.
Dependants of yours can potentially make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 if they think your will does not make ‘reasonable provision’ for them.
What is considered reasonable provision will depend on the circumstances, but these types of claims can often be avoided by discussing the contents of your Will and your intentions with your dependants, ensuring they know what to expect from your estate.
Who should be the Executor of my Will?
You can name anyone aged over 18 as the Executor of your Will, including people who are beneficiaries of the Will.
It is normal to name at least two Executors and you can name up to four. This helps to ensure there is likely to be someone to carry out the role, even if one of your named Executors is unable to do so.
It is also common to name a solicitor or other professional as an Executor. This ensures there will definitely be someone to carry out the role and that probate will be handled by someone with legal expertise, ensuring the process goes ahead smoothly.
Our solicitors are happy to act as professional Executors where required, so if you are interested in this service, please mention this when discussing your Will with our team.
Do I need to consider Inheritance Tax in my Will?
It is often possible to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax due on your estate by making the right provisions in your Will. This could include setting up a trust to hold assets such as your home, as well as considering issues such as making gifts during your lifetime.
When should I update my Will?
It is normal to update your Will when the value of your estate changes significantly or where you have a major change in personal circumstances.
Common situations where you may need to update your Will include when:
- You buy property
- You receive a substantial inheritance
- You start a business
- You get married
- You get divorced
- You have children