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Cheap and Cheerful - The perils of cut-price Wills

Cheap and Cheerful - The perils of cut-price Wills

Abigail Hart

There’s a time and a place for economy measures…well away from Will writing.

I’m bound to say that – I’m a Private Client Solicitor with over twenty-five years’ experience.  I write Wills regularly but when you’re wondering why I seem to charge so much, it’s always worth remembering the sheer responsibility that goes with it. Even a small mistake can make the Will invalid, or result in unintended consuquences.  Tax and wealth planning aside, below are some of the considerations that as a professional, I always bear in mind.  In no particular order:
  • No ambiguity is allowed - I can’t go back to someone who has died and double check that what they meant and what the Will says is one and the same.  (There is a horror story about someone who wanted to leave both their house and the contents of their house to their daughter but the homemade Will simply referred to “house contents”.  A comma was omitted from a list.) 
  • The Will must be signed and witnessed correctly.  The law on this point dates back to 1837 but still works well outside the pandemic. 
  • When preparing a Will for a Client who is vulnerable or ill or who lacks understanding, I must be sure that this person does know and understand what they are doing and why and what the Will is going to achieve.  Sometimes I need a medical opinion to confirm, never popular.
  • Often the Client is balancing delicate family relationships – an elderly parent doing their best to juggle the conflicting interests and needs of their adult children; or a second marriage where what’s best for the spouse and what’s best for the children are poles apart.  In this type of situation, I need to be satisfied that the Will contains the wishes of the person who is making it and not the wishes of the relative who contacted me and arranged it.
  • When writing a Will (or considering the pensions or joint property that pass outside a Will), I’m dealing with the full value of that person’s assets:  house, savings, investments,etc., - often a lot of money. 
If anything goes wrong with a Will, the likely result is a Court case, costing potentially open-ended legal fees.  In non-cash terms, the equally open-ended price is delay and a bitter family dispute.  On the other hand, a straightforward Will costs about £400 plus VAT (more if there are tax planning or other complications but then there’s more to lose).  You probably could get it cheaper, but do you really want to risk it?

Disclaimer:  This article contains the opinions of the writer and does not constitute legal advice.