We are in the midst of a very strange time with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are being asked to “self-isolate”, some people are being quarantined, and thoughts are turning to estate planning and getting one’s affairs in order.
We get this question a lot: “Can you let me know how to make a Will for my parents, or an elderly neighbour?” You may have a friend or family member who needs a Will, but they are not very good with computers. You have heard horror stories about the blank DIY Will Kits and how they don’t produce quality final documents. Surely there must be another option.
You may also be thinking about creating a Lasting Power of Attorney for property and financial affairs, or a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Wellfare. Perhaps you’re even considering an Advance Directive.
You may not want to book an appointment with a solicitor. You certainly don’t want strangers coming to your door (or your elderly parent’s door) offering to write a Will. Is it possible to prepare documents for somebody else without an appointment, and without leaving one’s home?
Let’s be clear from the outset. The person that you intend to prepare the Will for must have testamentary capacity. It’s one thing for them to not like computers, but if they are struggling with a cognitive illness like dementia or Alzheimer’s, then this is a non-starter. The person must know that they are working with their Last Will and Testament, they must understand the contents of that document, and they must appreciate the implications of what they are signing.
We would also recommend steering away from this approach if you are planning on making yourself a beneficiary in the Will, particularly if other people have an expectation that they will be beneficiaries, but are going to be disinherited. For example, if you are one of three siblings, and you want to help your elderly mother prepare her Will leaving everything to yourself, there is a good chance that the Will is going to be challenged and ultimately rejected by the courts. Likewise, if you are a care provider and planning to include yourself as a beneficiary, we would not recommend taking this approach.
What does a Mirror Will mean?
A Mirror Will is actually two Wills, usually created by spouses or partners, that names each other as the main beneficiary, with each Will having a backup plan in case both partners are involved in a common accident. It is one of the most common approaches for couples when preparing their Last Will and Testament.
A Mirror Will is very different to a joint Will which is one document that serves the needs of two people. Joint Wills used to be popular many years ago, primarily as a time saving tool. It saved the Will writer having to type out two very similar Wills, when only the main beneficiary was different.
Joint Wills were also popular in a time when the patriarch of the family was considered to own the assets, and a wife was thought to not have an equal claim over the estate.
However, in modern times joint Wills are rarely used. Attitudes towards asset ownership, and the efficiency of Will writing software means that there is absolutely no advantage in preparing a joint Will. But there are many disadvantages.
The main disadvantage of a joint Will is that it creates confusion when one partner writes a new document revoking previous Wills, and it becomes unclear whether both parties are bound by the terms in the old joint document. In general, joint Wills should be avoided.
What are the different types of Wills?
There are a few other variations on the joint Will or Mirror Will. A Mutual Will is a pair of Wills that a made after a legal agreement is put in place to dispose of combined assets in a certain way. What makes a Mutual Will unique is that neither can be revoked (or cancelled) without agreement from both partners. There are many resources online that describe a Mutual Will as the same as a Joint Will. This is incorrect. Mutual Wills are extremely unusual, and are rarely the best option. Typically one person makes a standard Will, and then contractually ties the second person into an irrevocable Will. It’s a legal challenge waiting to happen!
The term “Reciprocal Will” can also be used in place of either a mutual Will or a Mirror Will. A Reciprocal Will simply means that the two documents have been written to benefit each other. Continue reading
Updated November 2019.
Will writing options
Before the advent of online Will writing services there were two general approaches to writing a Will. Going to a solicitor, or writing your own Will on a piece of paper. These two approaches were diametrically opposite. A solicitor would be able to provide you with legal advice, and potentially write custom clauses in your Will, but the service would cost you several hundreds of pounds.
The option of going to a solicitor was not available to everybody either because of a lack of time, or an unwillingness to pay high fees to what was perceived to be a simple instruction. So many people attempted to write their own Will starting with a blank sheet of paper, and in general terms explain how they would want their estate to be distributed. The common belief was that writing at least something on a piece of paper, was better than dying without a Will.
In the mid to late 1990’s a number of blank form kits started entering the market. Available from shops like WHSmith the kits provided some structure to writing a Will, and at least guided the user through making some key appointments, and included the formalities of revoking previous Wills, and signing the new document.
“A note on Privacy: the protection and security of the documents created on our web site are of critical importance. In particular, we cannot access any information contained in a specific Will, nor can we read a person’s Will. However, we are able to access aggregated data from an encrypted database folder that summarizes the number of times particular choices have been made within our service. We cannot connect this information to individual accounts. It is this data that has been mined to provide the information on planned giving in this article”
At LegalWills.co.uk, we help thousands of people in the United Kingdom create their Last Will and Testament through our online Will service. A Will contains a lot of important information, such as who will receive your property when you pass on and who will be the guardians of your children, and it can also serve as a great way to give back to the charities you support upon your death. Leaving money or assets to a charity is called “planned giving,” – a service that LegalWills.co.uk offers for all its Wills. According the Charities Aid Foundation, “in terms of giving money to charity (either directly or through sponsorship of an individual), 70 per cent [of people in the UK] report doing so in the 12 months prior to interview [for the study], and 44 percent do so in a typical month.”
This information evidently shows that charitable giving is an important part of the lives of many people, so we were interested in the level of “planned giving” going on in the United Kingdom. According to Russell James, the number of people aged 55+ with a charitable estate beneficiary hovers between 5% an 6%. Continue reading
How to Choose an Executor for Your Will
One of the most important estate planning decisions that you must think about is how to choose an executor for your Will. Surprisingly, many people do not give much thought to just how important an executor is. Often the task I given to a family member without much thought about whether that person is the best for the job.
An executor has a very important role. They will be in charge of administering your estate as efficiently and promptly as possible. It is a big responsibility to undertake. You really should give some serious thought about how you choose an executor for your Will.
What Does an Executor Do?
When choosing an executor for your Will it is important to realize what role means. The executor of a will has a number of important tasks: Continue reading