A Will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign explains Adrian Schuck, Associate Solicitor in the firm’s Private Client department. You are aware that you should make one, however simple or complicated, to ensure your hard earned assets end up in the hands of those you choose rather than the law of the land dictates.
But the reality of it is that a large number of you who eventually get round to making a Will (which is often the bottom of the list of things to do on a rainy day) either draw it up yourselves or ask someone who is not suitably qualified or experienced to prepare it for you, perhaps as a freebie on the side, as they have already undertaken other types of work for you.
Your reason for doing this is likely to be down to cost – you assume solicitors charge over the odds for what is considered a straightforward drafting exercise or you have more pressing matters which you need to spend your money on.
However, what you may not realise is that for a Will to be valid it isn’t as simple drawing up a document which you then sign in the presence of two independent witnesses.
You must also have the mental capacity to make the Will, know and approve the contents of your Will and make it free of undue influence from anyone else.
It cannot simply be assumed that a person has the capacity to make a Will. You will need to know what a Will is and its effects, understand what assets you hold and be able to understand and appreciate the claims (moral or otherwise) to which a person making a Will ought to.
Our solicitors are professionally trained to ask you the right questions to test your mental capacity and will prepare a detailed file note to record their meeting. If they are unsure as to your capacity they shall arrange for a suitably qualified psychiatrist to assess you and prepare a report.
To know and approve the contents of your Will, you should receive a draft to check before you sign a best copy. Before you come to sign the best copy, you should read it.
Our solicitors will ensure this process is adhered to and again prepare a file note recording their meeting with you when you sign your Will.
You must also make your Will in the absence of any coercion from anyone else, such as a family member.
A family member preparing a Will or putting pressure on a person to make a Will can raise question marks over how much of the contents were influenced by them.
Our solicitors, who are independent, will prepare your Will and see you alone to confirm your instructions which will help to avoid the issue of undue influence being raised after you have gone.
So why use a solicitor if it means all this extra time (and cost, you might be thinking) in preparing file notes and additional paperwork?
The answer in short – evidence.
We live in a society where money is tight for many, there is an expectation they shall receive an inheritance at some stage in their lives and if they feel hard done by in a Will, they won’t think twice about trying to challenge it.
If you have seen one of our solicitors to prepare your Will, you will have been professionally advised and our solicitor will have a file with notes of their advice and meetings with you.
This can be pivotal in defeating a challenge to your Will from someone alleging you lacked mental capacity, for example and therefore avoiding the expense and the division and bitterness litigation can create.
There is a cost to making a Will but it probably isn’t as much as you might think when you see what our solicitors do for you.
We can also draw your attention to things you might not have thought about before like including a trust in your Will to preserve the equity in your property from care homes fees, divorce and remarriage.
Having read this article, just ponder over this question: what legacy are you really leaving for those you name in your Will without being professionally advised?
If you wish to make a Will, however simple or complex you think it might be, please do not hesitate to contact Adrian Schuck on 0121 710 5825 or [email protected].