Online Wills – are they worth it?
Posted on 15th May 2020
We’re all learning to use technology in our daily lives, from banking, reading the news or looking for a dinner recipe but should you make an online Will?
Here are some things you should know.
You can’t make a valid Will online
There have been suggestions that the law could be changed to allow you to write your Will via a text message or by email.
Although a Google search will return results that say that you can write your Will online, this is misleading. That’s because the law requires your Will to be signed and dated by you in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign it. You must have ‘ink on paper’ and, at the moment, a Will can’t be witnessed electronically.
So, you can create the document online, but it will only be valid once it has been properly signed and witnessed.
Will writing is unregulated
Did you know that anyone, regardless of their knowledge, experience or expertise, can set up a Will writing business?
You need to confirm that any Will writing service you use is provided by someone who is properly trained and registered. If you don’t, there is a risk that your Will won’t accurately reflect your wishes, that it could be invalid (in which case you could die intestate) or that it could be challenged after you die.
Your Will doesn’t have to be written by a solicitor
Many people choose to use a provider that’s regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). However, this can be expensive. An alternative is to work with a Will writer who is recognised by a professional body such as the Society of Will Writers, which protects the public as well as serving the interests professional Will writers.
The price of your Will
Choosing a qualified Will writer is very different to finding an online service, which will typically offer you a template. The processes are very different and prices vary a lot.
If you use an automated online service your Will might be based on the answers you give in an electronic questionnaire. This will probably be a cheaper option because it’s a simple electronic process to create a basic document.
Alternatively, you might complete an intial questionnaire which is then reviewed by a qualified and regulated professional.
If the process doesn’t include a face-to-face meeting there is a risk that your Will could be challenged on the basis that you didn’t have capacity to make a valid Will. This means that you weren’t properly aware of what making your Will would mean.
And remember, your Will needs to be signed, dated and properly witnessed for it to be valid.
Advice about what to include in your Will
In many cases on online service doesn’t include the opportunity to speak to an experienced professional who can discuss your circumstances, explain your options and make suggestions for you.
There are, in fact, quite a lot of things to consider, including:
what happens if one of your beneficiaries dies before you
what you want your executors to do
how you describe any gifts you would like to leave to be sure that the right things go to the right people or organisations
what happens to jointly owned property, bank accounts and belongings
whether someone might have a reasonable expectation that they will be included in your Will and why you have chosen to exclude them
whether you need to appoint a guardian for a young child.
Choosing the right type of Will
If you simply want to leave everything to your spouse or civil partner when you die, a simple Will might meet your needs.
However, if you have remarried, have children or step children, have a business or investments, or you want to leave gifts to a lot of beneficiaries or charities, you should take advice about how to draft a Will so that it accurately reflects your wishes. You can also include things like care for your pets and your funeral arrangements.
It’s also very important to make sure that you accurately describe anyone you would like to be a beneficary of your Will. If they can’t be clearly identified, they won’t receive your bequest. Normally, when you create your Will online, these things won’t be checked. Your Will is simply based on the information you submit.
To make an informed choice, check the terms and conditions of any online service provider. Many of them significantly limit their liability for errors. Some providers don’t even take responsibility for including legally valid clauses in your Will.
Online Will checklist
Here are some things you should do before deciding whether an online Will service
meets your needs:
read the terms and conditions
check to see if the service is registered with a recognised body
ask if the service includes the advice of someone who is trained and experienced in Will writing
check whether the service is automated and whether it will be reviewed as part of the process
ask whther there is a single, fixed fee. In some cases there is a recurring annual fee or a fee after your death, based on the value of your estate.
Please get in touch if you would like to talk about making your Will.
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