There is no need to use a wills and probate solicitor for writing a will. It can be done on an amateur basis or by using one of the many DIY kits advertised on the Internet or by a so-called specialist service most of whom are totally unqualified. Considering the average value of a house in UK who would you rather have dealing with your assets for the benefit of your family after you have gone?
The fact is that employing a solicitor for writing a will is usually cheaper than using an independent service. A wills and probate solicitor is regulated, insured, professionally qualified, undergoes continuing professional education and pays into a compensation fund – how many of the others can say that?
Writing a will is a very skilled job. There are numerous pitfalls for the unwary which include failure to:
properly sign and execute the finished article
take account of births, marriages and deaths
re-write a will in the event of divorce
take account of dependents
dispose of all assets
In certain circumstances an inexperienced person writing a will can cause the assets or a proportion of the assets to be forfeited to the Crown. This is not an uncommon event and occurs if the document is void for want of proper execution or if an asset has not been specifically bequeathed where there are no surviving relatives in cases where the testator was distributing assets amongst his friends.
The purpose of writing a will is to ensure that the testators assets are distributed in accordance with the testators wishes after death. In order to achieve this, an executor is appointed who is usually a family member, a friend, a lawyer or a bank. Most lay executors actually ask a wills and probate solicitor to deal with matters on their behalf. The duty of an executor is to pay all bills and debts from the proceeds of the estate and to distribute the assets in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. The executor is formally appointed by making application for a Grant of Probate to a Probate Registry. This requires completion of a form after initial enquiries have been made about the estimated value of the assets and the liabilities of the estate. Any tax is due and payable at an early stage and thereafter assets are distributed by the executor in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. An executor can and often is a beneficiary of the estate.
A will can be revoked by being physically destroyed by the testator or by someone acting on the testators’ behalf. Accidental damage or destruction of the document is of no consequence and the terms still stand. A new will usually cancels an old will and amendments or addendums can be made by a properly executed ‘codicil’.
When most solicitors are making a will they use modern will precedents that have been written in plain English. You will not be bamboozled by legal jargon either on the telephone or in the documents supplied. Most wills and probate solicitors charges are very reasonable and depend on the amount of work necessary to carry out your instructions. A wills and probate solicitor will be able to provide you with a quotation over the telephone and offer discounts for family wills or mirror wills for spouses.