/ Health, Money

Wills that won’t rip you off when you die

Typewriter typing 'Last will'

No one likes to think about dying. But once in a while, it’s well worth taking the pain by writing a will. But be careful – the wills sector is unregulated and some professional advisors are out to rip you off.

Millions of people die every year without having written a will. And in a small number of cases, where they have no family to speak of, all their money ends up in the hands of the government. If they’d just taken the time to draw up a will, they could have at least left their possessions to a friend or favoured charity.

Although writing a will is not a particularly complex process, it’s well worth seeking professional advice to ensure that it’s all legally watertight. The question is – who do you turn to?

Stay away from dodgy will advisors

Earlier this week, Panorama turned its spotlight on the independent will-writing sector, highlighting a handful of rather dodgy cases where will advisers had defrauded clients to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. Worse still, this sector remains entirely unregulated, so there’s no immediate hope of such poor practice being stopped.

Back in April, we carried out our own research into the wills sector at Which? Money – uncovering some particularly worrying practices in the banking sector. If you go and see RBS/Natwest or HSBC to get your will drawn up, they’ll insist on writing themselves in as the executor, or joint executor.

What this means is that they’ll manage the execution of your will when you die. And for this privilege, RBS/Natwest will take up to 4% of your estate. For many families, this translates into a five-figure bill.

Where to turn for the best will writing

Our research found that solicitors tended to give the most reliable advice when it came to drawing up a will – and none of the ones we visited tried to write themselves in as an executor. Although solicitors were slightly more expensive upfront – around £133 vs £107 for an independent will writer – we think the extra cost is well worth it.

We, at Which?, also have a will writing service – and we, like many other independent will writers, would welcome full regulation of this sector. In the meantime, all independents are getting a bad name due to the poor practice of a small minority.

Comments
Member

Just recently updated my will (im 63 and this is the 3rd updatesince i was about 35) at a cost of £75 for a local soliciter to do a professional job.
I consider this reasonable value in todays market and should something untowards happen suddenly i have the reassurance that all will be sorted out with out any problems for my dependandts etc.
However I also asked about drawing up a “power of attorny” document and this will cost £375, which I consider expensive for a document very similar to a will

Member
Liz McGregor says:
24 September 2010

When I purchased my first flat, as soon as everything was completed my solicitor insisted that I make a will as I now owned property. Completing a will at the same time was very simple, and I think it would be a sensible for all solicitors to advise new home owners to complete a will at the same time as purchasing their property.

Member

My husband and I decided to do joint wills around 4 ro 5 years ago and took up an offer from Willdrafters who do a service by phone which involves a long telephone conversation to take the necessary details, (they arrange to phone you at an agreed time so they bear the cost of the call) and then they write up the will and send it to you to approve. We also decided to pay for the lifetime service which includes free updating to take account of changes in law etc. I have to say they have been very good, have given sound advice and have come back to us to recommend updates based on changes in law (at no additional charge to us). There has been no pressure and we have chosen our own friends/family as executors, the lifetime service (also includes support for the executors when needed. I think the cost was around £250 for two wills and the lifetime service.

Member
Martin Scherer says:
24 September 2010

Very simple to do yourself, if you follow the WHICH? advice book.

Wills are sometimes challenged. I know of one will written following the Which? advice that was subsequenlty challenged. The challenge proved the Will was valid. That should encourage all to know that a personally written will, following the Which? advice is sufficient. You don’t need to pay anyone.

Member
Hilary says:
24 September 2010

November 2010 is Will Aid week. It is not difficult to find a solicitor who, through the Will AId scheme, will pass your donation to the charity of your choice. I gave £75 two year ago.

Member

I also thought I should make a will when I bought my house. I used Will Aid (this is available every other November from listed solicitors), and gave £75 which went to charity. The solicitor was very helpful in simplifying what I was trying to say and drew up a very clear “basic” will, which is fine for me as my wishes are very straightforward.
Incidentally, regarding the Lasting Power of Attorney, mentioned above, my 90-year-old mother has recently done this and it cost her nearly £1000, so if you can get it for £375 that’s a bargain!

Member
James says:
16 August 2011

I work for Specialist Will Writing Services and we are members of the Society or Will Writers. Our Leagel Consultants have to pass Stringent Exams to Qualify to write wills. Where Soliciter’s do not have to. Last year Soliciter’s had 16,000 (YES 16 Thousand) complaints about there service, were the Society or Will Writers only had 10 complaits in 10 YEARS (YES 10 in 10 YEARS) I think the figures speak from them selfs, your safer with a Will Writing Company…. End of.

Member
Tony Castle says:
20 March 2012

James,
I hope the grammer and spelling in the wills you write is better than in your post.

Member
Alle says:
31 January 2016

I agree with you there Tony, can’t say i would trust James with my assets!!

Member

That is unkind, Tony. If you must be rude about spelling then you should take care to avoid typos. 🙂 🙂

Member

It has taken me 3 years and 10 months to see this. If a specialist will writer is unable to spell and use grammar correctly (I counted 12 errors in the comment) , and this will writer actually writes wills, then I despair. It may well be that a will would be invalid, particularly if incorrect spelling led to an ambiguity or misinterpretation. How much faith might a client have in the soundness of the will content in the face of such basic errors?

I hope Which? Wills do better. 🙂