Most people know that they need a Will, but many are put off by the cost of going to a solicitor, and the inconvenience of booking an appointment. Unfortunately, this leads people to resort to some poorly judged approaches to preparing their own Will – we are often asked if we can provide somebody with a sample Will, from which they can draft their own Last Will and Testament.
There are a few steps to this process and trouble at each step of the way;
Locating a sample Will
For the people who don’t contact us asking for a sample Will, most will simply Google the search term “sample Will” in the hope that they can find a Will template to adapt. This is problematic most obviously because anybody can create a website with a “sample Will” on it. The Last Will and Testament is a very important document, and you must source one from a website that has some credibility. The reality is that today, a website can now be set up in minutes, and you will find some without so much as a postal address or phone number.
One of the websites listed when I searched looks like somebody had a go at setting up a downloadable Will service, and then gave up, so there’s a bit of information there, a twitter feed (of the Law Society, that has nothing to do with the site), but a lot of blank pages. There is crucially nothing about the providers of the service, and no way to contact them, but there is a downloadable sample Will. It is frightening that people may use a resource that is no more reliable than a bloke in a pub to assure their estate planning needs are met.
The Sample Will
I’ve downloaded a few sample Wills, and they seem to follow a similar format (they are probably all copied from each other). They generally look like this:
THIS IS THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT of me
1. I revoke all previous wills made by me
2. Subject to the payment of my debts funeral expenses and administration expenses I give all my estate both real and personal to my wife and appoint her sole executrix of this my will
3. If my wife dies before me or the gift to her shall fail for any other reason then subject to payment of my debts funeral expenses and administration expenses I give all my estate both real and personal to my son of and appoint him sole executor of this my will
4. I wish to be cremated and have my ashes scattered
IN WITNESS whereof I have signed this my will this day of
Signed by the said as his [Signature of testator]
last will in the presence of us [Signature of first witness]
both being present at the same [Name, address and occupation of
time who at his request and in first witness]
his presence and in the presence [Signature of second witness]
of each other have hereunto [Name, address and occupation of
signed our names as witnesses second witness]
A Last Will and Testament does indeed have these key components. It should name you as the testator, then it should revoke all previous Wills. The main body of the Will should then name your Executor and Trustee, and then distribute your estate. At the end, you need to sign in the presence of two witnesses.
This sample Will also has an alternate plan of sorts. If something were to happen to the first choice Executor and beneficiary (or you were both involved in a common accident) there is a description of a backup, contingency plan.
The sample Will is too simple
Supposing your needs really were this simple. The entire estate going to one person, who is also the Executor, and the alternate plan is a single backup beneficiary who will also serve as the alternate Executor. I have just run this exact same scenario through our Will writing service at LegalWills.co.uk
(it only took about 5 minutes), and our final document is about 5 pages long with over 20 clauses. Many of these clauses relate to the powers being granted to the trustee, for example, the trustee has the
Power to delegate their powers of investment and management of trust property to an agent (including one of their number) on such terms including terms enabling the agent to charge remuneration, to appoint a substitute, to limit liability and to act in circumstances giving rise to a conflict of interest as my Trustees think fit.
But there are additional clauses that relate to the distribution of the estate. For example
If my Trustees shall not be aware of the whereabouts of any beneficiary under the terms of my Will after having complied with section 27 of the Trustee Act 1925 my Trustees may distribute my estate on the basis that such beneficiary has died before me or ceased to exist before my death.
The sample Will includes none of this type of clause, which are all required in a well drafted Last Will and Testament.
Elaborating on the sample Will
It is with the elaboration of the sample Will that most people will come unstuck. Our service allows for example
- Handling of different partnership arrangements
- Joint Executors and Trustees
- Bequests to charities
- Trusts for minor beneficiaries
- Guardians for children
- Bequests to multiple children with alternate plans for each child
- Handling of debts
It is very challenging to adapt a sample Will to your own Last Will and Testament if for example, you have multiple children some of whom have children of their own when others are unmarried. You need to create so many “what-if” scenarios written in acceptable legal language.
Using an online Will service instead of a sample Will
The key difference between adapting a sample Will and using an online interactive Will service is not necessarily the end product, but rather the process. When you use a service like the one at LegalWills.co.uk you know that the service has been updated to reflect any changes in the law (and yes, there were changes to estate planning laws in 2014 in the UK, primarily dealing with distribution of an estate for somebody without a Will).
The service will also check for errors. For example, if you’ve identified that you have a child under the age of 18, the service will make sure that you have named a guardian and a trustee for their inheritance.
Our service also helps you to make updates whenever there is a change to your personal or financial situation.
Writing your Last Will and Testament is an important part of your estate plan, but at LegalWills.co.uk we provide some additional services. Like the Living Will which allows you to express your desires for medical care if you are ever unable to speak for yourself. We also allow you to describe in detail your funeral wishes which can be stored together with your Will.
Most importantly, we have partnered with My LifeLocker to provide an invaluable tool for your Executor and Trustee. This person has the responsibility to gather up your estate for distribution according to the instructions in your Will. It is an extremely challenging task, and almost impossible to know when everything is completed (do you have any accounts that people are unaware of?). Our service allows you to document your assets to make them available to your Executor at the appropriate time – a sealed envelope for the twenty-first century. MyLifeLocker allows you to create the ultimate Executor handbook.
Final words on the sample Will
There is a chance that you could draft your estate planning wishes by adapting a sample Will that you found on the Internet. However, there is a far greater likelihood that the document will be inaccurate, incomplete, or that your adaptation of the document will miss key elements. A Last Will and testament is a crucial document, and with a reputable service being available for £39.95, it really is not worth the risk.
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