The importance of making a will can never be understated. It is also a fallacy to believe that you do not need to make a will until you are in your senior years. Mainly if you are married and have children, making a will is essential if you want to ensure that you can provide as much as you can for your family in the unfortunate event of your untimely demise.
Failure to make a will means that any assumptions you may have made that all your assets would automatically go to your wife or husband if you are married are unlikely to come to fruition. If you have no relatives and die without making a will, then according to the government’s website, your estate is inherited by the Crown.
The attraction of a free will
You do not have to look far to find free or very-low-cost will writing services or packages. While there are many sites on the internet that offer numerous DIY options, there are also a vast number of solicitors, banks and charities which also offer free, or very cheap will creation services. While wills you can ‘buy off the shelf’ may have an attractive price tag, they lack the supervision or oversight of someone with a professional background and experience in will writing.
Consequently, when you invest in a free or low-cost ‘off-the-shelf’ will, the temptation will still be to get a professional, such as a solicitor, to still check things over. If you have never made a will before, how else would you know if the first one you created on your own would be legally binding?
A free or low-cost will offered by your solicitor or your bank
We have been brought up to believe what professionals tell us. If you cannot trust your solicitor, then who can you trust? As a result, we become an easy target for law firms.
With the lure of professional advice wrapped up on a low-cost package, what is not to like and difficult to resist? The problem is, there is a catch, and it is a pretty big, or expensive one, even though you personally will not be affected by it.
Why won’t it affect you? Because when it comes to making money from your Will, your bank or building society needs you to be dead.
Free and low-cost will still need an executor
When you make a will, on your demise, your assets will be divided according to your wishes. However, this is not something that happens with the click of your fingers. It requires someone to ensure that your wishes are met. That person is called an ‘executor’, and they are legally obliged to ensure that your express wishes detailed in your Will are carried out.
Now, here comes the catch. When your bank or building society helps you make your Will for free, or for a nominal fee, they expect you to make them the executor of your Will. Now, this makes perfect sense as to who better than an independent, professional person to oversee the execution of your Will? Not only does it cost you very little to create your Will, but you also get total peace of mind that when you die, the distribution of your estate will be handled professionally. So, what on earth could go wrong?
A will may be free to make, but the executor of that Will may charge a small fortune to carry out your wishes
The penny may not have dropped at the time of making your Will through your bank or solicitor, but neither of them will ultimately do anything for free, not when you look at the whole picture. There is an expression that says: “There is no such thing as a free lunch”, which means that even if something purports to be free, at the end of the day, you will still end up paying for it, one way or another.
That is exactly what your bank or building society is relying on because when it comes to acting as the executor of your Will, they are going to charge the maximum, usually based on a figure around £250.00 per hour, and trust us when we say that nothing will be done in a hurry as the longer it takes to execute your Will, the more that can be charged.
Alternatively, some banks may invoke their small print which will show that their fees will be based on a percentage of the value of your estate. This can vary between 3% and 10%. There was a case reported in the papers that a bank is believed to have charged an eye-watering 14% for the execution of a will.
Now, do you get the picture?
Beyond this, you may also have noticed that a good number of charities offer free or low-cost will writing packages, but again, they are looking at the long game and the money they can make after you have made them executors of your Will.
A free will-making service can create considerable value for a firm of solicitors
To go one step further in the benefits to solicitors of offering a free will service, think of the potential future income that is the executor of their clients’ will can generate. If, say, the firm is the executor for 1,000 wills, think of the guaranteed income that will generate when fees are based on £250.00 an hour. That makes a considerable difference to the value of the firm of solicitors, should they decide to sell or merge with another firm.
How to make the most of a free will service
The easiest way to avoid having your estate pay astronomical costs to a firm of solicitors or a bank for the execution of your will, you can appoint your executor, who would typically be a member of your family. Ideally, this person will not be the primary beneficiary, but someone who will act in the very best interests of the primary beneficiary or beneficiaries. If they know you well, they will understand what you were aiming to achieve with your will and will execute it in the spirit that was originally intended.
When making cheap wills or free wills, be cautious with the executor of the will. Make sure it is always a member of the family, and they won’t be charged extortion fees on the backend.
If you have not made a will, or are thinking of changing your will, contact one of our regulated will solicitors, and they will be delighted to provide you with the right advice or assist you in making one. Find more
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