LEA FS has established a close relationship with the Association of Professional Will Writers (APWW) to provide you with a personalised and precise set of documents that properly reflect your wishes and that will ensure these are carried out. Most of the text that follows is directly drawn from the APWW but reflects our belief.
What is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament, if properly signed and witnessed – and not cancelled accidentally or deliberately in any other way – is what decides where your under age children and your assets go when you die. It has no bearing on matters whilst you are still alive. That is the area where Lasting Powers of Attorney come in.
Why do I need a Last Will and Testament?
If you don’t have a valid Last Will and Testament, you will have no part in deciding where your assets and children go. That will be decided by the Government under the Rules of Intestacy which totally ignore partners you are not legally married to. If both parents are dead then you have bequeathed your children to the immediate care of the local Social Services Department.
* A 'common law' husband or wife has NO legal right to inherit. They can go to Court to apply for a share of your estate, if they can afford it. However, a husband or wife you are in the process of divorcing DOES have the right to inherit if you haven’t made a new Last Will.
* Even a legal husband or wife does not necessarily inherit everything and may be forced to sell the family home.
* Unadopted step children get nothing, as do your children if they have been adopted elsewhere.
* You have missed a major chance to protect your assets from creditors, such as the Local Council for Care Fees.
* Some assets may pass on outside your legal estate without a Last Will – for example, a life insurance policy in Trust.
So how do I get a Last Will?
1) APWW does not recommend its own Will Kit, but it is free, and you may learn a lot from the accompanying booklet.
2) You can buy a Will Kit from Smiths or Amazon, and they are pretty good as far as they go. However, a recent Law Commission Survey showed that most people didn’t follow the instructions – so they weren’t valid!! In these days of complicated families and worries about losing everything to Long Term Care Fees, we really think that professional advice is essential. So where should you go for that?
3) Solicitors are the traditional ports of call for Wills, and some of them are very skilled at making Last Wills. However, the majority of solicitors have never taken a course on Will Writing. For many of those who have, it was an afternoon lecture 20 or 30 years ago. There is no requirement from the Law Society to carry out regular training and updating on the specific subject of making Last Will and Testaments. In fact, their total training requirement to be competent in all areas of the Law is just a couple of days a year. Professional Will Writers are required to do at least that much annual training just to keep up to date with Last Will and testaments and Lasting Powers of Attorney. And we don’t find that to be nearly enough as things are constantly changing.
Solicitors who genuinely specialise in Wills are usually brilliant, but they are likely to charge over £200 an hour. Even a straightforward Last Will usually takes over 2 hours from start to finish, and that can easily grow to 5 or 6 hours. Most such solicitors are STEP (The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) members, though they may just specialise in Probate.
4) Banks – anyone who trusts a bank deserves what they get frankly. They will often offer free or cheap Last Will and Testament and put themselves in as executors. This means you “save” a few quid at the cost to your family of many, many thousands of pounds when you die and the banks cream in the Probate profits.
Appointing themselves as Executors is a favourite money maker for many – be they solicitors, banks or Will Writers. Even worse is appointing them as joint executors with a family member – that just increases the cost! Of course, there are circumstances where this is appropriate – but they are rare.
5) APWW - obviously, we’ve saved the best ’til last!
They offer fixed fees, and a variety of ways of creating your Last Will.
They really do care about making sure you do the best job you possibly can for your family and business. Yes, without sound Legal Planning, a business can crash and die.
They offer an ongoing service to help you ensure your Last Will and other planning stays up to date and relevant as personal circumstance (yours and the family) change. As taxes change and as the Law changes. Does any other adviser offer that?
They do NOT push themselves on you as Executors, they try to get at least two layers of family executors and just pitch in if neither set can cope.
They are fully Regulated by the Society of Will Writers and Estate Planning Practitioners and have full professional indemnity insurance for £2,500,000.