- by Lewis Richards

Most of us have seen DIY will kits for sale either online or in store. These can be tempting especially with prices starting at around £30 and with assurances such as “solicitor approved” or “prepared by solicitors” on the packaging.

In recent years, we have also seen non-legally qualified “wills advisers” or “estate planners” offering wills and estate planning services.

How important is it, therefore, to ensure you get advice from a solicitor before making decisions about your future? Here are some reasons why we think you should speak to a solicitor before making a will:

1.      Customisation

Solicitors can discuss options with you and give suggestions for how best to deal with your estate. Every client’s needs and priorities are different, and solicitors can customise wills in ways that are often impossible with “out-of-the-box” templates. Oftentimes, even in straightforward family situations, complex issues can arise when making a will. For example:

  • How can your money, possessions or property be left to minors or someone who lacks mental capacity?

  • Who should look after your children if you die before they become adults?

  • How can you treat your children equally if there is only one main asset (such as the family home)?

  • How should you deal with property you own abroad (such as a holiday home)?

  • How should your business be dealt with after your death?

Solicitors can help you navigate all these issues and put in place practical solutions which suit your needs.

2.      Peace of mind

In Northern Ireland, the main legislation governing wills is The Wills and Administration Proceedings (NI) Order 1994. It contains various formalities on how wills should be made. If these aren’t followed, your will may not be valid. Solicitors are well versed in these formalities and will take care of them for you. For example, they will ensure you have appointed suitable executors and trustees and that the will is properly executed.

Furthermore, unlike other advisers, solicitors are regulated and insured. The Law Society of Northern Ireland ensures legal firms conduct their activities in the interests of their clients and can provide redress if things go wrong. This protection isn’t available for other sources.

3.      Future proofing

Solicitors can draft your will in such a way that it reacts to future changes in your circumstances. For example, they can:

  • make provision for children/grandchildren born after you make your will

  • ensure a gift doesn’t fail. This could happen, for example, if a charity you want to leave money to no longer exists at the time of your death or if an intended beneficiary dies before you do.

4.      Protection from challenges

It is not uncommon for disappointed beneficiaries to challenge a will. Such challenges can be costly and painful for other beneficiaries. Solicitors can help guard against this.

5.      Solicitor as executor

Solicitors will usually agree to act as executor for you if you wish. This means they will handle the arrangements for your estate when you die. This is useful if you do not wish to appoint family or friends to act in this capacity.

6.      Inheritance tax

Solicitors can advise you how to best manage your estate to mitigate your inheritance tax exposure. This is a specialist area and is constantly evolving. Solicitors receive regular training to ensure they are up to date with recent changes.

7.      Storage

Most solicitors will store your will for you free of charge. Many firms (including Thomas Taggart & Sons) will have fire-proof safes ensuring your will is kept secure.

8.      Help administering your estate

When you die, your solicitor will probably be one of the first individuals your family will turn to for advice. Expert guidance at this stage often reduces stress at this difficult time.

Don’t play with your family’s future

Whilst your solicitor might charge more than non-qualified advisers or a DIY will-making kit, it is clear from the above that they add value in other ways. A simple will drafted by a qualified and insured solicitor is likely to cost under £200 and is therefore a worthwhile investment. Your solicitor will be able to give you a firm estimate of fees in advance of meeting with you, so you know what to budget for.

At Thomas Taggart & Sons, our clients have the assurance of dealing with experienced and approachable solicitors. If you need a will, power of attorney, trust advice or help when a loved one has died, please contact a member of our team today. We will be happy to help.

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