“Why should I pay £24.95 for your service when there are free Will kits available everywhere?” . A reasonable enough question, so please allow us to explain.
In every high street in the UK we have seen a growth of the pound shop; Poundland, PoundWorld, Poundstretcher and just to shake it up; 99pLand.
But we all know that there are some things that you can buy with confidence from a pound store; notepads, desk organisers, colouring books, egg cups. And there are some things that you would probably think twice; smoke alarms, electricals, first aid supplies. I once saw a discount lifejacket in a pound shop. It didn’t feel right.
So how can we establish the value of a Last Will and Testament, when what appears to be the same product is available for £1,000 from a top solicitor. But also a free download from a website.
How much should you pay for a Last Will and Testament?
The thousand pound Will
What do you get when you walk into a solicitor’s office to prepare your Will? Well, in theory, you get to draw upon years of legal education and experience in estate planning law. You are paying a very high hourly rate for a senior solicitor to perhaps craft custom legal clauses that apply to your unique situation.
However, oftentimes, your situation isn’t actually that unique. If for example you want to leave your entire estate to your spouse, and if something were to happen to the two of you, then your estate is to be shared equally between your children. A Will that addresses this situation does not demand years of legal training.
Even if your children were young, and you need to create a trust for them, and name guardians to take care of them. Again, this is fairly standard, and does not require sophisticated legal clauses to be custom crafted.
If you wanted to list specific legacies to individuals, or charities, it is a fairly standard procedure, and captured in well documented “legal precedents”.
Most solicitors in the UK use textbooks made up of standard legal clauses, for example, Parker’s modern Will precedents, the book that promises “A comprehensive collection of precedents aimed at anyone who needs to draft wills – also included on a CD ROM, for easy use”.
So in reality, for the vast majority of cases, your £1,000 Will is going to be cut and pasted from an established set of legal precedents, probably by an office administrator.
Free Will Kits
Now we move to the opposite end of the spectrum. The Free Will Kit.
Types of free Will kits
There are three different ways that a Will writing service can be offered for free, and we will explore each one.
1. The service offers free Will kits, but they are not free
We hate these, but there at least two of our competitors who have built a business model on this type of “inertia selling“. The idea is that the service is free, but you enter your credit card information. You then simply cancel your subscription within 7 days and you will not get billed. It sounds simple, but we have received calls from our competitor’s disgruntled customers asking us for advice. It turns out that cancelling is not quite as simple as it sounds.
There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of similar reviews. It is a business that relies on busy people not noticing that they are receiving monthly bills, and then refunding only the most recent payment. I personally spoke to one of their customers who fell for the lure of free Will Kits, only to discover he had been paying £30 a month for 10 months before realising his mistake.
Even if you are diligent, you can ask to cancel the service. They will give you verbal confirmation that you will not be making another payment, only to find the charge on your next credit card statement.
You go through the whole process again like some Kafka-esque, Groundhog Day experience, and realise that you are spending hours upon hours talking to these people and you are still not confident that you have seen the last of the charges.
The free Will Kits have not only cost you hundreds of pounds, but hours of your time.
2. The service is really bad
There are countless free Will kits that are nothing more than a downloadable Microsoft Word document. This is no way to prepare your Will.
There are many, many issues with this Will. There is no alternate plans, no residual beneficiaries, no trusts for minors or guardianship clauses. No powers granted to the Executor and Trustee, and it includes things that probably shouldn’t even be in the Will, like body donation information.
It also allows you to do things that legally you may not be able to do, like disinheriting a spouse or children. All told, this is far too simple a Will. Even the most basic document prepared through the service at LegalWills.co.uk is about 5 pages long. Typically is includes over 20 clauses. A well drafted Will just can’t be any shorter.
This example is even worse, and stretches the definition of their advertised “Free Will Kits”.
It is really just a lot of white space in which you must write things like the “powers granted to the Executor”. This belongs in a final exam of a legal bar exam. No layperson could possibly write legal clauses granting powers to an Executor or Trustee of your Will.
We have even found online free Will kits that have mistakes in the final documents, and important mistakes. Often these services are interactive software, and with all software code they should go through a thorough verification and validation cycle. A service with no revenue, does not offer the rigour of a professional company. Their retort would probably be along the lines of “it’s free, what do you expect?”
3. The service sells your information
The final approach to offering free Will kits is the business model that uses the information that you enter into the service for profit. There are funeral homes and insurance companies that would pay a lot of money to contact you, knowing that you had just prepared your Will. If you find a quality online Will writing service, be aware that like Facebook and Google, if you are not paying for the product, you become the product. The free Will kit company will sell your personal data to the highest bidder(s).
Why we charge for our Will service
To understand a little more about our pricing structure, we need to share the costs associated with running an online Will writing service.
At LegalWills.co.uk we have ongoing costs. These include our server hosting, our legal fees, insurance, customer support team, and product development. We also invest in promotion of the website so that you are able to find us in a very busy market. The legal fees are important to consider. Laws change and over time we introduce new services. This demands that we continually ensure that our services are always legally compliant. Did you know for example, that intestate laws in the UK changed dramatically in 2015?
In the last few months we introduced the capability to leave assets in trust for a spouse. This protects the inheritance of your children if your spouse is not their biological parent. It took significant development and legal costs to bring this new capability to market. We have to validate every possible combination of words that can appear in a final Will, and have an estate planning solicitor sign off on this.
We charge £24.95 for a Will. But if you do have a problem using the service, you can phone or email us. We will help you make sure that the document is right and to your liking. Our fee for the Will also covers the costs of our support teams.
How do you choose a Will service provider?
We are clearly not a fan of free Will kits, and like the lifejacket at the pound shop, some things are just too important to “steal a deal”. Your Last Will and Testament will be your voice after you have died. It makes key appointments for you, and describes the distribution of everything you own. Equally as important is the wording that describes your Executor’s powers. For example, are they able to buy and sell your assets, make investments, and work with creditors?
There are a lot of scams in the Will writing business. Not only the free services that charge you a monthly subscription, but also the £1,000 solicitor who does ten minutes of work.
You shouldn’t overpay for your Will, and you shouldn’t underpay either.
Quick tips on finding the right service provider.
- Find out how long they have been in business. At LegalWills.co.uk we have been offering our service since 2005. This means that not only have many people used our Will service, but many of our Wills have been probated. We have never once in our history heard of an issue with one of our Wills at probate. On the other hand, we have heard from many family members and loved ones who have probated our Wills and have been very happy with how smoothly they stepped through the process, at what is otherwise a very difficult time.
- Find out if they offer phone or email support. Try sending the company an email with a question and see how long it takes to receive a reply. Also see if the reply is useful or just a standard form based answer written from a call centre overseas.
- Check online reviews. We also offer our service in Canada and the US and have been proud of the 98 percent satisfaction ratings on all forums. And oftentimes the 2 percent is a simple misunderstanding.
- Take a look at the final document, and if you don’t like it, ask for a refund. Any reputable company will give you a no argument refund. We certainly would.
If you have any questions, or any experience with using any service providers offering free Will kits, please feel free to comment. We would love to hear from you.
He has over 19 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets and has contributed to articles in most leading publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.
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