What are they?

A will is a document, prepared in a formal way, in which you can specify what happens to your assets after you die.

What do they contain?

All wills should have an appointment of executors*; these are people who will do the day to day work to gather in your assets, pay any debts and pay the balance to the beneficiaries*.

* executors can be beneficiaries
* beneficiaries are the people who inherit

Sometimes if spouses/civil partners leave everything to each other, the remaining spouse/civil partner is both executor and beneficiary.

How do they work?

A will does not come into effect until death; they can be changed or amended (by another document called a codicil) at any time until death if the person has mental capacity.
Are there different kinds of wills?

Yes, several different kinds – see our Wills Information Sheet – all wills are different and therefore for a note of our fees please look at our fees page.

What do I do next?

If you are thinking of making a will, there are certain things you should record before coming to see us. You can print off a questionnaire (PDF format – see next paragraph) which you can complete outlining the basic information required to complete a will.

What else might I consider?

You may wish to consider what would happen if you became mentally incapable and what you could do to protect yourself.

What is STEP and how do their principles protect me?

One of the professional organisations that some members of our firm belong to is STEP – which stands for Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.  They, along with many other professional bodies, are concerned about many people who write wills without adequate training. They have now issued what they describe as ‘standard practice principles of ethical will preparation’

This includes the following ‘needs’ for will writers:-

  • open and transparent dealings with the testator
  • take particular care in circumstances where there may be doubt as to mental capacity
  • Confidentiality
  • Appropriately qualified draftsman
  • Avoidance of potential conflicts of interest
  • Adequate indemnity insurance
  • Appropriate dispute resolution

But we would take this further as we appreciate the need for:

  • Explaining to prospective clients how we work and how they will be charged – before they commit.
  • Taking adequate time with the client to get to know them and really understand their needs, especially where there may be a question of capacity or where there might be conflicts in the family.
  • Try to give clients what they want within the law – it may not be just a will, as, in some cases, intestacy will be sufficient.
  • Within the confines of the above, providing open and transparent fees that all can understand.

Wills information sheet

Basic will:

This is a will suitable for a person who does not have many assets and merely wants to ensure that a favourite niece or other person inherits what little they have. The document will appoint executors and have one or two further clauses.

Standard will:

This would be a simple will for husbands and wives who leave everything to each other and then make provision for children and grandchildren. Executors would be appointed, and could be the surviving spouse and/or children.   Including discussions and advice about IHT.

Discretionary Trust clauses:

Many people have complicated family relationships where they may want a beneficiary to ‘enjoy’ an asset while alive but when that person has died the rest of the family can have that asset. This often happens where there is a second marriage and there are children from a first marriage. This is where the will may have to include a trust and, because of this, the will can be long and complicated, and the person making the will (called a testator) will need to understand the implications and also whether it fits in with what they want. This is why such a will can be more expensive.
There are other clauses that may be added, covered by our hotchpot/guardianship provisions in our fixed fees.

Legacy clauses:

A testator might want to include many legacies to different family members or charities, or have specific instructions regarding certain assets and this would add to the complexity of the will.

Business clauses:

If a testator is running a business, the way in which that business is run after death is important and may need particular clauses in the will.

At the first meeting a costs analysis will be carried out to show how your will will be costed. This may change if you decide to change instructions.