Wills and Probate Solicitors

Whether you are writing a will for the first time, looking to update an existing will, or seeking advice on how best to structure your estate, Quittance can help.

Our solicitor panel members have expertise in all aspects of wills and probate law. To speak to an expert about your will, call us on 0800 612 7456.

Making a will for the first time

Making a will is the best way to ensure that you control what happens to your estate when you die. Many people are surprised by what happens by default if a valid will is not in place.

Some people choose to write their own will. Writing a will with the help of a legal expert however, is usually inexpensive and has a number of advantages:

  • The process sets out all the relevant choices you have, and helps you to make the most informed decisions
  • It helps to avoid drafting errors that can invalidate a will
  • A solicitor can structure more complicated arrangements such as bequeathing part of a jointly owned asset
  • Your lawyer will ensures that there is no ambiguity in the will, reducing the likelihood of it being contested
  • They will ensure that the will is valid when you die
  • Using a solicitor helps to avoid administrative complications, such as a mismatch between the beneficiary named in the will and the name on the beneficiary's birth certificate.
  • Using a lawyer reduces the amount of time that the executors will need to spend administering the will
  • An expert solicitor will offer invaluable advice - especially if there are any unusual or complex circumstances
  • A specialist will solicitor may also be able to recommend financial advise to help optimise the amount of inheritance tax
  • Finally, you will have recourse against the solicitor if something were to go wrong

Am I eligible to make a will?

To make a will you will need to be:

  • At least 18 years old, and
  • "of sound mind" - in practice this means that the person signing the will must be mentally capable of understanding what they are signing

Why do people put off making a will?

No one likes to think about dying, and the consequences of one's death can be difficult to easily contemplate and plan for. People also often assume that making a good-quality will is an expensive legal process.

One of the main reasons only 1 in 2 adults in the UK have a will, however, is that they assume that their loved ones will automatically inherit their estate. This is not necessarily the case.

Another common misconception is that long-term cohabitants are considered "common law" husband and wife. In fact "common law" does not apply in estate law.

The following points are key reasons to draft a formal will:

  • A surviving spouse does not necessarily inherit all of their partner's estate
  • Unmarried partners do not have automatic entitlement to their partner's estate
  • Children may be unintentionally disinherited

What happens if you die without a will?

If you die "intestate" (this means "without a will") then the statutory rules of intestacy will apply. In practice, this means that you will probably be leaving a complex legal and financial situation that could take years for your partner and/or dependants to disentangle.

The rules of intestacy mean that:

  • The estate will be distributed according to a prescribed order
  • Spouses and direct family can inherit under intestacy - unmarried partners and friends cannot
  • The situation can be complicated by previous marriages

What happens if you die without a valid will?

If you have written a will, but that will is found to be invalid, the process defaults to the standard rules of intestacy.

The invalidating of a will can usually be contested in court, but legal proceedings to achieve this will be much more expensive that the cost of a will would have been in the first place. Additionally, the outcome is not guaranteed.

What could lead to a will being invalid?

For a will to be valid, the will must have been:

  • made by someone 18 years old or over
  • made by someone of "sound mind"
  • made by someone acting voluntarily and not under duress
  • made in writing
  • signed by the person making the will, with two witnesses present
  • signed by the two witnesses with the person making the will present

Who can be a witness?

In principle, anyone over the age of 18 can be a witness. However, if an intended beneficiary of your will (or your spouse, partner or family member) acts as a witness, they cannot inherit.

The witnesses do not need to read the will itself, they are simply acting as a witness to your signature of the document.

Updating an existing will

It is recommended that you review your will every few years as a matter of course. You should also review your will if there are any significant changes to your life or relationships such as:

  • marriage or civil partnership
  • divorce or separation
  • having a baby or adopting a child
  • a beneficiary in the will dies
  • your children have children of their own
  • you need to change the guardians or executors
  • you sell a significant asset or business

How do you update a will?

Updating a will is normally a straightforward process, whereby you only need to change those elements that reflect the changes in your life. However, it is recommended that you observe the following when updating your will:

  • the changes are made to a new document, and the original will is destroyed. This prevents there being any conflicting iterations of the will
  • the new will should explicitly revoke any earlier versions of your will
  • if you have other wills covering overseas assets which you do not want to alter, this should be stipulated in the new will
  • your executors should be notified of the whereabouts of the new will

Where should you keep your will?

There is no central register or database for storing your will. Given the importance of the document, it should be stored in a secure place.

Most people store their will at home as there is no cost involved. If the will is damaged, destroyed or stolen however, the rules of intestacy will be invoked. Some people invest in a fireproof and waterproof safe to store their will, passports and other vital documents.

Solicitors will offer to store your will for you, but often they see this as a way of generating annual revenue. A cost of £20 to £40 per year is not uncommon. Some solicitors will store your will for free.

Alternatively, the will can be lodged with the Probate Service for a one-off fee of £20.

Wherever you choose to store your will,the most important thing is that you notify your executors so they can locate it in the event of your death.

How can Quittance help?

Quittance are a panel of expert will writers and probate specialists. We can assist you with every aspect of the will writing process through to securing grant of probate.

Our solicitors work on a fixed fee and are highly competitive.

Our full range of services:

Making a will

  • Individual Will
  • Joint Will

Estate Planning

  • Setting up a trust

Disputes

  • Contesting a will

Dealing with an Estate

  • Obtaining a grant of representation
  • Administering an estate

Other

  • Power of attorney for an individual
  • Power of attorney for a couple
  • Lasting power of attorney