/ Money

DIY vs professional will writing – what works best?

Writing will on a typewriter

We’ve long believed that you don’t need a solicitor to write a decent will, and now the legal world has cottoned on. Do you think solicitors write better wills, and will new regulations change your mind?

Over a year ago, James Daley wrote about the dangers of using a poor quality will writer after Panorama exposed shocking shortcomings by some in the sector.

Things have moved on significantly since then and it looks like something may be done to improve matters.

Solicitors don’t always write better wills

First, the Legal Services Board (LSB) published a report in July concluding that greater regulation was in the consumer interest. Worryingly they found significant evidence of poor quality wills written both by solicitors and other will writers, so they recommended that all will writing should become what is known as a ‘reserved legal activity’.

In effect, this would mean that anyone providing a will-writing service would have to be approved by the LSB, the legal world’s regulatory body. In the past, Which? has opposed this, partly because a simple will isn’t a complicated thing to do yourself.

Also, in the past, it might have meant only solicitors could write wills – but, as the LSB consumer panel has discovered, solicitors don’t necessarily write better wills – a conclusion Which? first reached as far back as 1996.

But now, due to the Legal Services Act 2007, it’s possible for other bodies, including non-solicitor will-writing firms to become, ‘an approved regulator’. And if this happens, standards should rise across the sector.

The importance of probate

The Consumer Panel’s report has now prompted the LSB to fully investigate the market with a new call for evidence. But, importantly, they want to go wider than just will-writing to look into estate management and probate too.

We agree with this: the link between wills and probate is something the regulator should shine a bright light on. As Which? Money reported in April 2010, banks often write themselves into your will as your executor and then charge your heirs around 4% of your estate to manage probate.

For many people dealing with these issues it is understandably very tricky and sensitive – who likes to contemplate death? But it’s also complicated by the fact that the person who wrote the will is obviously not the person who then does the probate for that will. The only link between the two is likely to be the person who helped write the will – the will writer.

What are your will-writing experiences?

And that’s where you come in. To help us respond to the LSB we need to hear your experiences and views of writing a will and/or managing probate.

How did you write your will – on your own or with the help of a professional? Do you think solicitors write better wills than non-solicitor will writers? On probate, were you charged less or more than you were expecting? And, if you did probate yourself, was it straightforward and would you recommend others to opt for the DIY approach?

Sandy Middlemas says:
29 September 2011

I made DIY wills for myself and my wife a few years ago. I am sure from a strict legal point of view a will written by a solicitor in legal speak may hold more water if it is in dispute or rather complex.

For most people I am sure a simple template would suffice and as I tell myself; as long as a judge can see your general intentions are fairly clear I don’t see why there should be any problems. It may depend on what kind of family you have and how much money is involved.

My fathers estate is currently in probate and the executors, as stated in the will, are his long standing family solicitor. Though still to be concluded I have been very happy with their service which takes a lot of weight off relatives.

G E Morgan says:
30 September 2011

My mother wrote her own will and had it witnessed. A problem arose arose when one of the witnesses could not write in long hand but printed their name. Unfortunately they passed on before my mother so there was no going back to check. It went to probate but was sorted out relatively quickly. So if doing it oneself make sure it is witnessed properly.

My WILL is probably as simple as it gets. However, I did write a WILL through a solicitors and was dumbfounded when they wanted £50 to make a small change. These people don’t live in the real world.

I used http://www.tenminutewill.co.uk. It was only £10, the will was a bit wordy and I am sure the Plain English group would be a bit horrified but It did the job, It was relatively easy and guided you through the process. As you had a login, you could walk away and go back to it months later while you were setting it up. I printed off two copies and got together with two friends who witnessed me sign it and they signed it and I am all done.
The beauty of it is that my will is on their secure website forever so I can go back and change it whenever I fall out with any of my family. Brilliant!

john says:
3 October 2011

I contacted a firm of will-writers who quickly lost interest.Then I saw the WHICH advert and used their service,only £60.

Hemmant. says:
3 October 2011

I used ‘Desktoplawyer’ for my brother. It was a simple and unambiguous will but Probate still demanded to see the, by then, elderly witnesses to it. Probate acknowledged that they were being pedantic and I was left with the impression that, had the will been printed a solicitor’s stationary, there wouldn’t have been a problem.

john says:
12 October 2011

what’s your opinion on making a will online with a company that offers cheap will making service? I found this site where i can create it for just £20 pounds? they say the template is writen by a solicitor …heres the site: Will writing let me know. thanks and nice article.

I made my own will using make a will online. I was considering using the Which? service but saw that it was more expensive – almost the same price as using a solicitor. The site I used seemed fine for a simple will, but I will probably go to a solicitor when I have more money!

Peter says:
19 April 2013

One of the reasons that the Legal Services Board (LSB) is proposing regulation is that most members of the public don’t know what the “right” will for them is. For example, a young couple who aren’t married won’t know in what circumstances they need to appoint the father as a guardian, or that if they do wills giving everything to each other and then to their children when the second dies:
a) they might pay more tax than they need to
b) the children might get nothing if one dies and then the other goes into care or remarries.
In short a will is a really important document, it deals with who looks after your children and in most case what happens to all your assets. Professional wills are not expensive documents for what they are and what they cover. I have to admit a vested interest – I am a professional will writer and a specialist in this field. My advice to anyone who can afford it is to use a specialist. I’d recommend either a member of the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW). They are the only professional group monitored to show compliance with a strict code of practice approved by the Trading Standards Institute. As the LSB found, the label “solicitor” itself is not a mark of quality for will writing, however in my experience, full members of the Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners (who should have the initials TEP after their names) should be knowledgeable in this area. I hope this helps those looking to make a will.

Scott L says:
29 April 2013

I used a law firm called Premier Solicitors- http://www.premiersolicitors.co.uk after being recommended by a friend. They’re experts in this field (TEP amongst others, as mentioned in the last post) and only charge £30 for a standard will or £50 for mirror wills for a married couple. No obligation to store your wills or name them as executors. But I took them up on the storage as its free and would fully recommend them. I’d rather use them as they’re a proper solicitors firm and fully qualified. Bargain price and all done by a solicitors firms who have the ‘TEP’ expertise- what more could you want!

Danny says:
23 December 2014

I used https://www.simplewills.net to write my will. Didn’t really find it difficult at all, its just good to be prepared before you start, i.e. have all the info ready first and know exactly who’s getting what and whats going where. It just makes it run smoother. Its not much of an issue as you can save it and come back to it later. Overall I would bother going to a solicitor and paying £300 with services like this around which only cost £30 odd!!