Will Writer or Solicitor?
There is has been much debate about whether to use a Will Writer or a solicitor to draft your Will. I am going to put the case for the Will Writer.
Drafting a Will may sound straightforward but there is often more to it. A good advisor will ask questions and may raise topics you hadn’t considered. A Will does not offer any protection to your assets and in many cases your intentions, even with a Will in place, will not be met.
It is important that the person you choose, whether they are a solicitor or Will writer, understands all the surrounding issues including taxation and trusts.
For example, if you are a business person then Business assets should be dealt with differently as Business Property Relief or Agricultural Relief may be available. The common argument for using a solicitor is that they are legally trained and regulated by the Law Society. The vast majority of Wills drafted by solicitors that I have reviewed are basic Mirror Wills where everything is left to the spouse and then, if the spouse dies first, to the children. Consequently, there is a serious risk the money may not reach the intended beneficiaries.
The truth is very few solicitors do any initial training on Wills when they go through university as it is a very unpopular and unprofitable area of law. As a result, the average solicitor probably has less training than the average Will Writer. If you go to a solicitor who is not a specialist in Wills and the surrounding issues, such as inheritance tax planning and trusts, it’s a bit like going to see a GP and asking him for a tooth extraction. You simply won’t get much in the way of proper estate planning advice. If you want to instruct someone, it should always be a specialist.
Solicitors might not be cowboys, but they rarely offer value for money. Many push themselves to be made professional executor charging their full hourly rate and often a percentage of the estate. This can run up fees of tens of thousands of pounds when the estate is dealt with. I suggest this is a much bigger scandal. Solicitors are paying sky high Professional Indemnity Insurance premiums because they are having massive compensation issues.
There should also be a quick mention of the high street banks and building societies which have also come under a lot of criticism for unethical Will writing practices.
Most solicitors will point to the fact that Will writers are currently unregulated. This is true but his does not make them all cowboys. The debate for regulation continues but that is a different topic. A professional Will writer drafts Wills for his clients as a main business.
So long as they have professional training and indemnity insurance there should be little concern about using them.
As a professional Will writer I have seen badly drafted Wills from both solicitors and other Will writers so choosing the right Will writer is no different to choosing the right solicitor. You want to find someone you can trust so ask for testimonials from other clients. Enquire about what experience they have. A good Will writer will happily answer your questions and the answers should be easily verified.
Is the fact they a member of the Institute of Professional Willwriters or the Society of Will Writers important? Remember, Will writing is not regulated so these bodies are not regulators and have no powers in law. They are marketing bodies whose purpose is to promote the need for Wills to the general public and assist their members with training. Membership does not guarantee you will receive the best advice.
So, whoever you choose, ask if Will writing is their speciality. Ask how they keep on top of changes of things like the law, and whether they have had a claim of negligence against them (if yes, how many!). Do they understand Inheritance tax or care fees planning?