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Drafting a Will

Making a will provides peace of mind for the future. A will is a legally binding document which states how your assets can be protected and delivered to your loved ones after you die.

Why make a will?

If you die without a will, or your will is poorly drafted and out of date, there is no guarantee your possessions will pass to close family members, or a partner, and this can cause a great deal of stress, upset and financial difficulty for those left behind.

In a will you can decide who will be in charge of distributing your assets and who should be the guardian of children under the age of 18. You may also make clear your preferences about your funeral arrangements.

We understand how important it is to safeguard assets that you or your family may rely on in future. Our highly experienced and understanding solicitors will take the time to listen to your needs and then tailor a will to suit your own personal circumstances.

In some circumstances a trust may be appropriate to help protect the value of assets you own.

Our specialist team has considerable expertise on how to write a will, on inheritance tax and its effect and setting-up trusts (where they are appropriate to your circumstances). Hodge Jones & Allen is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Legal Ombudsman. In addition many of our lawyers belong to the highly respected Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and we use the STEP Will Writing Code of Practice in preparing all our wills. This level of consumer protection cannot generally be offered by other non-Solicitor will writing firms.

We understand that after life planning is a difficult and emotional process. Our team of legal experts will provide sensitive and discreet advice to help provide peace of mind for the future.

Here are some common questions on the reasons for making a will and our responses:

Why should I ask a solicitor to help me make a will?

There are many ‘will writing’ products on the market and in theory you can make your own will. However, the rules for making a will are complicated and for a relatively modest fee a solicitor can ensure that:

  • Your will is completed correctly and is a valid legal document;
  • You distribute all your assets, avoiding a possible claim from the Crown against your estate;
  • You make clear your wishes in the event that one of your named beneficiaries dies before you do;
  • You receive advice on how to avoid paying unnecessary inheritance tax.

Badly drafted wills are responsible for a number of damaging probate disputes each year – expensive litigation is the last thing you want to leave your loved ones.

I made a will some years ago so I don’t need to worry about this anymore, do I?

Even if you have already made a valid will, we would recommend that you review it regularly. Your life circumstances may change: perhaps you are getting married? Divorced? Perhaps you now earn considerably more than you did when you made your original will? Or have received an inheritance of your own? Any significant changes in your status or circumstances can affect your existing will, and may even make it invalid. If you marry or remarry, for example, your will is automatically rendered invalid unless it was made clear at the time that you were intending to marry and wanted the current will to remain in force afterwards.

I have two children: a seven-year-old and a twelve-year-old. I am currently thinking about making a will and would like to leave my property to my children. Are they too young to inherit directly?

Since both your children are under 18 then they won’t be able to inherit directly. But this doesn’t mean they can’t benefit under your will. Your solicitor will be able to help you arrange for their inheritance to be held in trust for them until they are older. Meanwhile, you can ensure that your children don’t lose out by allowing the trustees you nominate to use the income and/or capital for your children’s benefit, such as to pay school or university fees on their behalf.

My partner and I live together but are not married. He has children from a previous relationship but has promised that I would inherit the house when he dies. I’m on the deeds of the house so is it really necessary for him to make a formal will?

You should make a will as soon as possible. Whether or not you automatically inherit your partner’s share of the house depends on whether you own it as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. If your ownership is as Tenants in Common your partner’s share of the property will pass to his children, as will his other possessions. If you were married then you would inherit the first £250,000 of your partner’s estate and receive a life interest in the remainder. You should talk to your solicitor about making a valid will and also about how you may be able to avoid paying unnecessary inheritance tax.

How do I go about making a Will?

The Procedure to make a new will with us:

  • Call us on 0800 437 0322 and ask to speak to a Legal Help Advisor in the new client enquiries department about making a will; the Advisor will ask you for some basic information, including your contact details and they will pass the message on to a member of our team who deal with wills.
  • A member of the team will contact you to answer any immediate questions that you have and to arrange a meeting. At that stage, they will try to give you an estimate of the cost. But it can only be an estimate at this stage. The cost will depend on the assets that you have and the complexity of the will that you want (or perhaps need). If you want a home or hospital visit, that will also affect the cost.
  • Prior to the meeting, we will send you our will questionnaire and ask you to fill it in and either return it prior to the meeting or to bring it with you to the meeting.
  • At the meeting, we will go through the questionnaire as necessary, and make sure that we have your instructions for the will and have discussed with you all the relevant details. (If someone has brought you to the meeting, we may have to ask them to leave the room while we discuss these issues with you in private). At the end of that meeting, we should have a better idea of the cost of doing this work, and will let you know.
  • We will then send you an engagement letter along with the firm’s terms of business. The engagement letter will set out the work we are doing for you and the anticipated cost. We will ask you to sign that and send it back to us. We are required to have the signed engagement letter before we can start preparing the will.
  • We will then prepare a draft will, with a letter of explanation of the terms of the will for you to approve, along with an explanation of any other matters relating to the will that were discussed at the meeting. If requested, we may also prepare a letter of wishes for your executors, to be read with the will.
  • Subject to any further questions you have or changes you want made to the will, we will prepare a final version for you to sign.
  • If possible, we prefer you to come into the office to sign the will, so that we can supervise this and make sure that it is valid. Otherwise, we can send it to you and explain how it needs to be signed and witnessed.
  • We offer a free storage facility for your will when it has been signed and will be happy to send you a copy.
    If you would like us to, we can register the will with Certainty for a small additional fee. They keep a record of your name and address, the date of your will and where it is. At a later date, this can be helpful for family or friends if they don’t know where your last will is.

The whole process is usually quite quick (often no more than a few weeks) and quite painless!

Do you need to amend an existing will?

You may already have a will which needs to be updated to take account of changes in your life. Will amendments need to be undertaken with care to ensure your wishes are fully understood and are legally binding. Most importantly, if your will does not reflect your current circumstances, your assets may be distributed in a way you hadn’t intended.

You can’t amend your will after it’s been signed and witnessed. The only way you can change a will is by making an official alteration called a codicil which we can prepare for you. You must sign a codicil and get it witnessed in the same way as witnessing a will.

If you need more substantial changes made to your will it is usually advisable to have a new will prepared by one of our legal advisers which formally revokes your previous will.

It is sensible to check your will every so often to see if it needs updating. You should seek professional advice on updating your will if any of these circumstances apply to you:

  1. You wish to remove or add beneficiaries or change the share of assets due to them
  2. You have had children or you now have grandchildren
  3. You have married or entered into a civil partnership
  4. You have separated or divorced from your spouse or partner
  5. You have moved house or acquired further property or assets
  6. The Executor or beneficiaries in your will have died

We can advise on how these changes can affect the distribution of your estate and how to change both the beneficiaries named in your will and the amount of money or assets paid out to them. Our team can also provide specialist tax advice to reduce or defer the payment of inheritance tax in your estate where possible.

Download our guide on Making a Will.

For more information please read the STEP code for will preparation.

Will writing STEP logo

Our Wills and Probate Solicitors are backed by four decades of experience. Our legal practice and team of London Solicitors have a strong track record of achieving favourable client outcomes. For expert legal advice use our contact form or call us on 0800 437 0322 today.

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Address:Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors
180 North Gower Street