Search online for ‘simple’, ‘free’ or ‘cheap’ will writing and you’ll be presented with a range of website results including sponsored adverts promising that you can sort everything in five minutes flat.
In theory, you could scribble who you want to leave your earthly goods to on any scrap of paper and sign it. Then, as long as your signature is witnessed and signed by two independent adults aged 18 or over, it might be legally binding. But does that mean it’s a good idea?
One step up from that are the DIY kits you can buy from stationery shops and online that allow you to write your own Last Will and Testament.
In the digital age, many people have high expectations of doing things at the click of a button. As a result, online will writing services have become popular, especially since the start of the pandemic. These online services range from quick and basic online templates to more detailed customer journeys where you will be asked questions to find out more about your personal circumstances and finally options where you can speak to an advisor through a phone or online call.
Rebecca Head, of Four Oaks Legal Services, said: “In general, you should only consider writing your own will if your situation and wishes are very simple. The difficulty is that a lot of people think their circumstances are simple, when in fact there may be complications they have overlooked.
“With property prices rising, many people have more wealth to leave than they might expect and a properly drafted Will can avoid disputes after your death.
“Since the pandemic began, there has been a surge in people wanting to sort Wills quickly for minimal costs and online options can look tempting.”
When should you NOT consider a DIY online Will?
Circumstances that make a will more complicated, so that a DIY online option would NOT be recommended include:
- If you have people who are financially dependent on you, other than your immediate family, such as children from previous relationships.
- If you own a property abroad or have overseas investments or bank accounts.
- If you own a business.
- If you have wishes that are slightly complicated or open to misinterpretation.
- If you want to try to reduce the Inheritance Tax obligations of your loved ones.
Rebecca said: “There are growing fears that many Wills that have been made with online software or DIY kits in recent years will actually be invalid when they come to be enacted, or will result in costly and stressful legal battles for families.
“In the worst cases, Wills may not do what the client intended and it may be the courts who decide who should inherit land, property and belongings.
“Many websites and will writing software have clauses that strictly limit, or deny, their liability if anything should go wrong, so you may have no legal comeback at all.”
The clear difference that puts clients first
Solicitors at Four Oaks are all legally qualified and experienced and Rebecca and her colleague Adam Penn also hold Diplomas in Trusts and Estates from STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners). This is the gold standard qualification in the industry.
Rebecca added: “Experience tells us what questions to ask to really understand the situations of our clients and to advise them if their instructions are likely to result in heartache for loved ones in later years.”
A recent survey by independent research and consultancy firm Funeral Solution Expert found that 65% of UK consumers who believe their affairs are simple, actually have much more complex needs when it comes to their Will.
Rebecca added: “We recognize that some traditional law firms may have driven people towards online will writing services and DIY options because of complicated fee structures, slow response times and the hassle of getting an appointment. At Four Oaks Legal Services, we set out from the start to be clearly different. We are upfront about our fees and we are happy to arrange appointments outside normal office hours and to take instructions in the homes of our clients if it is difficult for them to get to us.”