Who should prepare my Will?
Most people would decline car insurance from a provider with a notoriously low percentage of claims pay-outs and awful customer service ratings, even it’s the cheapest package on offer.
The majority would rather pay higher premiums for the assurance that the vehicle will have maximum coverage value, relieving them of any sudden financial liability. After all, it’s about insuring against a potential loss, not simply ’having‘ insurance because you have to.
So why do most of those in the UK who actually have Wills draft it themselves or commission an insufficiently qualified Will writer for the sake of saving some money? It’s as if ‘having’ a Will is more important than ensuring that it’ll operate as it should.
Can I write a Will without a solicitor?
There are thousands of unregulated Will writers, most without even a law degree or any form of recognised will-writing qualification. And yet many practise after as little as a two-day course offered by a guild of sorts.
The preparation of Wills for profit is not a ’reserved legal activity’, i.e. one which may only be carried out by lawyers, solicitors or barristers. But it is without question a legal service. After all, it requires knowledge of the relevant legislation, understanding of relevant case law and application of the elements that govern the laws of Wills and succession. Having a ‘pretty good’ knowledge of Wills may suffice for the unregulated Will writer in only the most basic of cases.
If your Will writer does not have the legal background, how can they confidently identify any potential pitfalls in your case and provide effective legal advice? We would therefore advocate the use of regulated legal professionals for all legal services, including Will writing.
What does ‘regulated’ actually mean?
Even unregulated Will writers would agree that Will writing is a ‘legal activity’. The Legal Services Board oversees and approves all legal regulators in the United Kingdom in terms of the Legal Services Act 2007.
Approved regulators applicable to legal services in England and Wales:
- The Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (which regulate all qualified solicitors, solicitors’ firms and to some extent qualified lawyers)
- The Bar Council (for barristers)
- The Chartered Institute of Legal Executive Lawyers (CILEx)
- The Council for Licensed Conveyancers
- The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys
- The Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys
- The Association of Cost Lawyers
- The Master of Faculties (for notaries public under the Notaries Society)
For the purpose of Will writing, you can safely add the badge of quality provided by the industry and an internationally recognised STEP qualification. Academic and professional qualification is required in order to be regulated by any regulators overseen by the Legal Services Board.
No independent Will writing associations, societies or guilds are recognised as regulators of legal services by the Legal Services Board.
In other words, there is no true standard of quality, measure of training or guarantee of legal knowledge with an unregulated Will writer.
What are the benefits of using a regulated Will writer?
Qualifications, knowledge and experience
You wouldn’t trust a medical diagnosis by a carpenter with a first-aid certificate. So when it comes to your Will, find someone who knows the law, holds a relevant academic qualification and is regulated or employed by a regulated firm, i.e. SRA, CILEx and/or STEP.
In a law firm, very few legal documents, including Wills, leave the door without an experienced lawyer or solicitor having reviewed the client’s instructions against the draft Will. This limits the chance of error, or that crucial legal advice has been missed out.
You may save money by attempting the Will yourself, or in your one-off payment to an unregulated Will writer. However, by using a regulated writer, you or your beneficiaries have recourse to the Ombudsman if it all goes ‘pear-shaped’. An unregulated writer is not obliged to have insurance. As a result, there are few guarantees that their guild will provide satisfactory help if the advice and product received is insufficient.
Barcan+Kirby are the custodians of all Wills we prepare and those of our predecessor firms. If a solicitor’s firm closes without a successor, all documents (including Wills) are stored by the SRA. If you discovered that your writer had moved on and no Will could be found, you no longer have a Will.
Many independent and unregulated Will writers charge annual fees for storing Wills – some as much as £30 per year. You may pay less with them but will they safely store your final Will, and for how long? We store our clients’ Wills and deeds with a secure storage facility at no cost to the client.
Range of expertise
Law firms often offer multiple services with a wide range of expertise. Barcan+Kirby’s Will writers have their colleagues’ varying expertise to ensure clients get the best overall advice and a watertight Will. A legally trained writer is more likely to have the skillset to spot the need for another department’s input. For example, conveyancing, family and commercial law, if there’s a business involved.
If someone is not proficient in the relevant statutes relating to Wills and has never had any practical experience of probate administration and/or the effects of Will writing malpractice, they are unlikely to be aware of the danger of what they don’t know. Stay clear. Especially if any of the below apply to you:
- You own a large estate, more than one property, or assets abroad;
- You have children from a previous relationship;
- You’re considering getting married, are separated or going through a divorce;
- You’re considering transferring property to others in the belief that this will avoid debt or tax;
- You want to grant a share in your property to another;
- You cohabit with your partner (whether or not you intend to marry);
- You’re concerned about eventual care fees;
- You wish to leave significant portions of your estate to persons other than your spouse or you wish to leave significant portions of your estate directly to your minor grandchildren; and/or
- You potentially have a vulnerable or wayward beneficiary.
Always take specialist advice from a firm of solicitors. Don’t take chances with your estate planning for the sake of saving a few pounds.
Get in touch with a Will writer in Bristol and South Gloucestershire today
You can also click here to request an estimate for our Will writing services.