What is Involved in Drafting a Will?
According to recent research by IRN Research entitled, ‘UK Wills & Probate Market 2020: Consumer Research Report, COVID-19 has not been a huge catalyst for people drafting Wills. Only 4% of those surveyed by IRN say that they made a Will because of COVID-19, a figure which is perhaps lower than would be expected given the toll which the pandemic has dealt in the UK. The report also highlights that Wills are still very much the preserve of the older adult; “The percentage with a Will in the 65 and over age group is well above the survey average at 79%, and it is 57% in the 55 to 64 age group.
Then, ownership levels drop quickly in younger age groups, for example, the percentage is only 35% in the 45 to 54 age group”. The research confirms that “many adults in younger age groups have other priorities and, unlike their older counterparts, many have not built up the assets, possessions and money which they wish to pass on to others when they die”. Wills, however, are truly for everyone who wants to exercise some control regarding their personal matters when they die and that they are not left to the default rules of intestacy. So what is involved in drafting a Will?
How do I draft my Will?
There are several ways to draft a Will; draft a Will yourself, engage a professional Will writer or Solicitor or utilise the services of your bank or a charity. It is certainly the case that drafting a Will yourself, perhaps using an online template, may give you at least some control over what happens to your affairs, assets, and possessions in the event of your death. This is preferable to leaving your matters to the rules of intestacy (when the state decides what happens with your affairs). Be aware, though, that the process of drafting a Will which is both valid and fully capable of faithfully ensuring the wishes of the testator are carried out is much more involved than many may assume.
What steps are involved in drafting a Will?
Writing a Will involves several steps, including:
- Understanding the contents and value of the estate – this can be complex if businesses, multiple properties, overseas assets, or valuable/rare assets are involved.
- Deciding how to apportion the estate in the event of death – this requires especially careful consideration when it comes to unmarried testators and those with beneficiaries from previous marriages.
- Choosing executor/s to carry out the wishes contained in your Will – it is vital to choose individuals with a) an understanding of your estate and wishes, b) who will carry out your wishes faithfully and not for their own benefit, and c) the capacity to follow the process of executing your Will.
- Draft the Will – only once all of the above information is considered and available can you draft a Will. Your Will needs to be drafted in such a way as to be unambiguous and fully considered. Self-written Wills often do not contain enough information for the executor to make decisions if the initial wishes cannot be carried out (e.g. if the primary beneficiary dies before or at the same time as the testator).
- Signing the Will – your Will needs to be signed by you and witnessed by two people.
- Store your Will in a manner that can be easily retrieved and executed in the event of your death.
Another key aspect is that the person writing the Will must have the capacity to understand the implications of the decisions they are making. In addition, there cannot be any form of pressure or coercion placed on the person writing the Will. The more that any of the above can be put in doubt in the event of your death (perhaps by a person who wishes to challenge your wishes), the greater the likelihood it can be rendered invalid. Will writing professionals and Solicitors go to great lengths to ensure that the process is robustly lawful and cannot be later challenged after the testator dies.
The cost of writing a Will is often much less than people may think, and given the importance of getting it right, both in terms of you having the confidence that your wishes will be carried out and that your family will not be left to fight over an ambiguous or invalid Will, getting professional assistance is invaluable. The harsh reality is that the rate of contested Wills in the UK is on the rise. In 2019 contested Wills rose by 47% over the previous year. This can leave families in conflict at the very time they should be coming together. The simple act of having a Will drafted for you by a professional, and keeping this up to date when key events in your life occur, can make the difference between knowing your affairs will be in order and uncertainty for you and your family.
Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have a highly experienced private client and family law team who can assist you with all matters relating to Wills and estates. To make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.