The process of writing your will

Sometimes, my clients find the prospect of writing their will daunting. Often it is the fear of the unknown that is worrying. Therefore this blog will run you through what happens after you make that first contact with me.

When a date is made for me to visit a client I confirm it in writing with various papers to be completed before our first meeting.

The letter includes some guidance notes on things to think about before I arrive which helps keep the meeting as swift as possible if couples have had a discussion about who is to get what before I sit with them.

This helps to eliminate any unpleasant surprises, like the meeting with one couple and when I needed the details of the children, he admitted to 3 other children that she had no idea about!

Sending out that letter is part of my code of conduct within the Institute of Professional Will Writers and it ensures clients have all the details about me. It also includes my price list so that there are no shocks.

At the first meeting with a client I have to get them to sign my Terms of Engagement – this is again part of our compliance. It gives them a cooling off period if they have a change of mind after they have paid me and before their wills are worked on. The terms of Engagement also explain that I operate a two visit system – I see them on visit one to get their details of what they want to do and help and guide them through who should get what and which people who be best as executors and also Guardians for children under 18.

After that meeting a draft version of the documents is prepared and sent over to the clients so that they can check that I have everything correct. I try and make it simple to understand by detailing all the clients’ personal points in red ink and only the legal wording is printed in black.

I ask them to check that the names and addresses are correct – that can be interesting when dealing with foreign names which I may not be familiar with. I can change any of the red ink if required but not the black legal words.

I ask the clients to contact me within 10 working days so that any amendments can be dealt with or the original documents issued.

This is often a stumbling block in the process as many clients delay this stage. I do get anxious here as if they were to die at this stage they may not have a valid will.

This could be the first time they have written a will and if any of their family or friends were not inheriting something that they were promised because the will was not completed, they could try and sue me. Finally when everything is agreed I make a new date and visit again to be present when the wills are signed and witnessed. This is visit number two.

Again this is also part of our code within the Institute. If I am present I can oversee the signing in front of two witnesses to ensure that it is all signed correctly and that the witnesses are not mentioned in the will. If the clients were just sent the documents to deal with them on their own the chances are that they may not be signed correctly and this may only be discovered when they die and it is too late.

The process is smooth, transparent and I try to make the process as enjoyable, and of course professional, as possible!

Before you make your Will – make a plan!

When making your will think about the following questions:

How much do you have to leave?

Who gets what?

Here are some tips on how to work out the basics – once you are happy with your plans …. It’s time to contact me!!

  • Start by writing down the basics of your plan for your money and possessions.  Make a list of who you want to include when writing your will – think about your partner or spouse, children and other family members, friends and charities.
  • Next write down your assets and roughly what they’re worth – start with things like savings and any valuable objects you may have.
  • Now it’s time to write down things that change in value – for example your house, any land you own, stock market investments, your business and your pension.
  • Now think about any sentimental items that you want particular people to have.

Once you have this outline plan you can contact a Will writer to discuss everything with and your mind will be put at rest that your wishes will be fulfilled!

Divorce is on the rise …. understand how this can affect your Will.

The number of divorces in England and Wales, sadly, continues to rise, according to official figures.

Just over 118,000 divorces were recorded in 2012 (the most recent figures available.) This is around a one thousand increase on 2011

Figures show that divorce is most likely to occur between the fourth and eighth wedding anniversary and almost half of all divorces occur in the first 10 years of marriage.

If we look at figures over the past few decades, there are increases in the divorce rate in the early 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010 …..what’s the common theme here? Recession!!!

Divorce is of course an emotional and stressful time and there is much to organise.

Your Will should be at the top of the list.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a Will may be partially revoked by divorce or annulment of a marriage, or dissolution of a civil partnership. If one of these events happens it causes the parts of the Will referring to the former spouse or civil partner to lapse.

An appointment of the former spouse as executor is automatically cancelled. This could leave the will without executors if the former spouse was sole executor or with too few executors if the former spouse was one of two executors and the situation is one where more than one executor is needed. The result is extra complications following death.

Your will should always be reviewed following a life-changing event such as marriage or divorce. Please contact us for advice specific to your situation!

Lasting Powers of Attorney – not just for the elderly

It’s that time of year when many young people are flying the nest to start University or College or perhaps they are off on a gap year adventure.

You will have helped them prepare for their first steps towards independence but have you considered getting your young adult to complete lasting powers of attorney?

Probably not!

Lasting powers of attorney are often thought of as only relevant for the older generations but if your son or daughter needs you to access their bank accounts or to speak to an embassy on their behalf, you will be glad that you got them to draw up an LPA.

If they are involved in a medical emergency, you will have the authority to discuss the situation with doctors – being prepared is not morbid, it is sensible and if the LPA is ever needed it will save a great deal of stress.

Find out more about LPAs here

What invalidates a Will?

It’s true that anyone can make a Will. Off-the-shelf kits are readily available but it isn’t as easy as filling out the forms and ticking the boxes.

There are a number of factors that can invalidate a Will….here are some of them.

  1. If the Will is not signed and dated by the testator in front of two witnesses, it is invalid.
  2. The original Will is required – a photocopy won’t do!
  3. If a Will has been altered or looks to have been tampered with, it may be invalid.
  4. If the Will is not the last one made by the testator it will be declared invalid.
  5. Did you know that marriage revokes a previously made Will?
  6. If the testator was considered to be not ‘sound of mind’ when making the Will it may be invalidated
  7. A witness cannot also be a beneficiary – this is a common mistake in ‘home-done’ Wills.

An invalid Will is entirely avoidable.

An invalid Will is likely to cause huge emotional stress for loved ones and the process of resolving matters can be lengthy….not to mention expensive!

Invest a couple of hundred pounds in a professional Will now and save heartache and money in the future!

Happily Ever After

Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time there was a handsome wealthy man, married to a beautiful kind woman. Their daughter was the fairest in the land. Sadly, one day, the beautiful wife died and the handsome wealthy man was so lonely that he married again.

This wife was not beautiful and kind, she was grumpy and mean and her two ugly daughters bullied the fair daughter.

The wicked second wife moved into the handsome wealthy man’s house and spent his money whilst he was out working. Her ugly daughters bought dresses and shoes and the poor fair daughter was left cleaning the house and ironing their clothes.

If only the handsome wealthy man had made a Will with his first beautiful kind wife that had included a property trust, their fair daughter would have had peace of mind knowing that half of the house that belonged to her mother would eventually come to her……We could have said that she had lived happily ever after.

We don’t live in fairy tales but we are able to ensure our affairs are in order for our children!

Seek advice and have your Will drawn up by a professional!

False Economy

Some people ask me why can’t I write my Will using one of the ‘off the shelf’ kits that can be found in high street stationers.

I always answer – well, you can! Anyone can write a Will but also anyone can get things wrong!

Let me tell you a story about a gentleman who decided that getting a Professional Will was too expensive and time consuming. He instead bought a DIY will and set about filling out the forms and filed it away in a drawer – happy that he had saved himself time and money!

Fifteen years later, the gentleman passed away and his family set about organizing his affairs ……they took the will from the drawer and immediately noticed errors.

  • The Will had not been dated.
  • The Will had not been signed by the witnesses.
  • The Will was invalid!

Months of stress, visits to solicitors and eventually family fall-outs ensued.

The gentleman may have saved himself time and money but he unwittingly heaped a lot of extra cost, time and stress on to his family.

So often the consequences of making your own Will don’t come to light until after you die.

Results can be devastating for your family members.

There are many simple mistakes which can be made using a DIY Will kit and whilst they may seem relatively minor, in reality, they can render your Will null and void and mean that you die intestate. This leaves the Government to determine how to divide your estate.

The effects of dying intestate can mean that your spouse will only inherit a percentage of your total estate.  This can result in financial issues which were completely unintentional on your part

If both you and your partner die and your children need a legal guardian, if your Will is not valid due to a mistake your children may be placed into care and a court will decide where they will live without any of your wishes being considered.

So please think twice about saving a few pounds now – your Last Will and Testament is one of the most important tasks you will ever undertake.

Lasting Power of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney is an extremely useful legal document to supplement your Will, and it is usually seen as one of the final pieces in the process of planning and protecting your estate. Whilst a Will describes what happens when we die, we seldom think about who would manage our affairs, or make decisions regarding our welfare should we not be able to ourselves.

Through either or both of these documents you can appoint whom you wish to manage your finances and property, and/or arrange for someone to make decisions regarding your medical treatment or your welfare if you can’t make decisions for yourself because of illnesses such as dementia, or if you have an accident leaving you mentally incapacitated.

The simplest way of determining whether you would benefit from this document would be to ask yourself the question “if you couldn’t manage your affairs, who has LEGAL permission to do so on your behalf?” This is very different from people wanting to help – very often companies won’t speak to such people unless they have legal authority, which could be given to them through a registered Lasting Power of Attorney.