Choosing a Will Writer
Picking out the right Will writer for your needs
It can be hard to find someone you trust to draft a document as important as a Will. Any mistakes may not be uncovered until it's too late, so you want to make sure that you go with someone you can rely on. If you're unsure of what to look for, the following Will writer checklist may give you some idea of how to sort the wheat from the chaff.
- Find out how long the company has been around.
A firm with a lengthy history is likely to have produced Wills that stand up after the death of the testator, and it means you won’t lose your money to a fly-by-night operation.
- Look for a firm that is a member of a professional body...
...but don’t just take their word for it. Since there is no official regulatory body for Wills, it’s easy for a company to create one themselves, or to sign up to an organisation that doesn’t actually monitor their members’ actions. The biggest Will-writing professional bodies are the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and the Society of Will Writers (SWW), so membership of either one of these is a positive sign that the company is above-board.
- Ask for evidence of qualifications in relevant fields.
Of course, there are no official qualifications for Will-writing – be wary of anyone who claims to be a ‘qualified Will writer’ - but someone who can demonstrate experience of inheritance tax, trusts, property law, etc, is more likely to know what they are doing. Bear in mind that even a solicitor can be clueless about writing Wills – a law qualification doesn’t make them an expert in every law.
- Enquire as to what protection they have in place in case of an error on their part.
You’ll want to go with a firm who offers an externally-regulated independent complaints procedure for dissatisfied customers, and you also want to be sure that they have insurance in place to cover any loss that may result from a poorly-drafted Will. Solicitors are required to have professional indemnity insurance in place, but you’ll want to make sure that any Will writers who aren’t solicitors have taken out a similar policy. If they operate under a pre-payment model, it’s also a good sign if they are part of a scheme which guarantees the return of your money if the company should cease to operate prior to the completion of your Will.
- Any Will-writing firm worth its salt will probably want to meet face-to-face with their clientele and request identification to ensure that the Will is not being used for fraudulent purposes.
Cheaper services may create your Will through information given over the phone or online, but these Wills are often poor quality.
- Check whether Will writing forms the core of their business, or if it is merely something they undertake ‘on the side’.
While Will writing is unregulated, this does not mean that it does not require expert knowledge to do properly. A firm or solicitor which merely views Will writing as a way to make some extra money will likely pay less attention to the drafting than someone who relies on it for their primary income.
- Don't necessarily go for the cheapest!
Often the Will writers who offer the lowest price up front will add extra costs for the most basic of additions. Ensure that your initial discussion includes a clear statement of what they will charge for what you need, rather than informing you of a minimum price.
- When you initially meet with the Will writer to discuss the Will, observe carefully whether they are tailoring the discussion to your circumstances or merely seem to be working their way down a checklist.
Someone who understands Wills should be able to discuss the specifics with you in a way that seems relevant to your unique situation – they shouldn’t just be taking down details. They may bring up topics such as the creation of trusts, or inheritance tax planning.
- Before you or your loved one signs a Will, read through it yourself and check for any glaring errors.
Take a look at what makes a Will valid so you can be sure they haven’t made any big mistakes.
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