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It can be tempting to think of a last will and testament as an unnecessary expense. No one likes to contemplate their inevitable demise, and many of us suspect that things tend to sort themselves out in the end.
Not so. Research has shown that on average, UK families spend £9,700 more on untangling estates without wills. Making a will can not only save them stress and funds, but also doesn’t have to cost you the earth either.
So, how does a financially savvy person go about making their final wishes down? Let’s take a look.
1. Team up
Most will writers charge less for couples’ wills, so if you’re in a committed relationship and you and your partner decide to make yours together, you can make a considerable saving.
“Because so many of the background details are the same, it’s less work for the will writer,” says James Dunn, co-founder of online will company Beyond. “Even if the two of you have completely different wishes, you can usually make your wills at the same time and get around 50% off the second will.”
2. Shop around
We’ve come to adopt price comparison in almost every purchase we make – and wills should be no different. Rather than opting for the nearest solicitor, take some time to look at quotes for other will writing services in the area and online.
When deciding whether a quote is a good deal, think about the kind of will you’re making:
A simple will
A simple will is often all you need. You can use one to leave beneficiaries a percentage of your estate, specific gifts of money, or objects. You can also choose executors, and (if you have them) pick guardians for your children or pets.
A simple will usually costs £150 to £250 with a solicitor. Online will writing services cost a lot less. Making a simple will online with Beyond.life costs just £90, for example, and (they say) takes just 10 to 30 minutes.
A complex will
If you have assets abroad, if you own a business, look after a dependent adult relative or have a complicated family situation, it’s better to go for a ‘complex’ or ‘specialist’ will with a solicitor. These can cost upwards of £500, but are worth it to make sure nothing has been left to chance.
3. Going DIY? Get it checked
DIY will writing kits are sold in Post Offices and stationery shops for around £25-£30. With these, you’re responsible for writing the will yourself, following the instructions in the kit and using a template to (in theory) draft a valid will.
While the saving of £100 or so is indeed tempting, these kits can be a false economy. According to research by the Co-operative Legal Services, poorly drafted or ineffective DIY wills cause issues for as much as 38,000 families a year, dragging the probate process out and draining up to 10% of the value of the estate.
For this reason, it’s important to use a DIY will writing service that promises to have your will checked by an expert once it’s finished. It might cost a little more, but ultimately a properly drafted will saves your family money.
4. Know your tax rules
As the saying goes, nothing in this world’s as certain as death and taxes …. but your death tax bill can be wrestled down with a clever will.
If you keep the legal exceptions for inheritance tax in mind when you’re making your will, you can make sure your family will pay less when the time comes.
For example, anything you leave to your spouse is free from inheritance tax. And when they pass away, they’ll be able to take on your unused allowance, potentially doubling how much they can pass on tax-free.
Charitable gifts are also exempt. And if you leave at least 10% of your net estate to a charity, the inheritance tax rate drops to 36% from 40%.
5. Choose your executor wisely
It’s reasonably common to choose the solicitor or will writer who made your will as its executor – but it’s worth thinking carefully before making this commitment.
Firstly, check how they’ll charge (whether they take a fixed-fee, hourly rate or percentage of the estate) and how much it’ll be, roughly. Next, consider choosing a friend of family member to be your executor as well (or instead) – this will make it easier for your loved ones to manage things if they decide not to pay a professional.