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Working in the Wills & Probate department at Sousa Law, one of the questions I am often asked is:
“What is the point of using a solicitor to write my will when I could just buy a will writing kit?”
There are few ways around it, a solicitor will usually be the most expensive option available for making a will, but there are good reasons for this.
Most importantly, you want your will to be valid. Trying to make your own will, without legal assistance, can lead to mistakes or lack of clarity and could mean that your will is invalid. It is a cold fact worth remembering, that if you die without a valid will, you will have no say in what happens to all that you have (your “esate”) that you have worked so hard for in your lifetime. Where there is no valid will, the statutory ‘Rules of Intestacy’ will divide your estate in a pre-determined way and this may not be to people or institutions that you wished to benefit. It also may not be carried out in the most tax-efficient way, so those who you wished to benefit may lose out to a greater or lesser degree. Even if you live with someone, are married, in a civil partnership or have step-children, they may not automatically inherit your estate.
Writing a will that will be valid and ensure that your assets are divided how and where you want them to be, may not be as simple as you might expect. For example, if you know that your estate will be over the inheritance tax threshold (currently £325,000 for an individual and £650,000 between spouses) then you should give serious consideration to instructing a solicitor and you may also want to seek advice on tax planning from an independent financial advisor. Then there may be your family position to consider – you may have minor children, or children from another relationship and want to think carefully about who you would nominate as their guardian, or godchildren who you would like to make a gift to, but who would not inherit automatically under the rules of intestacy. Alternatively, you may run a business and have assets overseas and would benefit from the experience and advice a solicitor can provide in relation to these assets and what you would like to happen to them. Furthermore, if you instruct a solicitor to draw up your will, safe storage will also usually be available free of charge. A solicitor will explain your options, help you to make decisions and give confidential advice. They will put your best interests first, and write and check your will in accordance with your instructions.
Above all, instructing a solicitor can, in the long run save a lot of stress for those you leave behind, and provide you with peace of mind.
Amber Thacker, Assistant Solicitor
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