It is very surprising that millions of people today in England, have not got around to writing a Will. Obviously if you have nothing to leave (and with years of austerity, many people haven’t), then obviously this post is not for you. But if you have any legacy that you would like to leave to your family or charity (or both), then it pays to make a Will. Otherwise your money could go to the Crown (government). And that means that not only could your legacy go to some awful relative: but even worse, it could go to pay for weapons, animal tests or wallpapering Downing Street or Buckingham Palace.
There are a few types of Wills. A single Will is obviously when it’s just you. A Mirror Will is when you make a joint Will with your spouse. Then there is a Living Will (where you write down your wishes, should anything happen to you: this is also where you write notes on where you want your precious heirlooms to go). Then there are Pet Trusts, which we shall cover below.
- Please don’t write Wills from those stationery kits in WH Smith, as they are not worth the paper they are written on. Obviously it’s best to write a Will with a solicitor, but many people can’t afford it. But there is something called Probate, and this is checked after you die. So if you don’t write a Will that has been legally checked to pass Probate, your Will is not valid.
- Many trade unions offer a free Will-making service for members.
- Discounted Wills to benefit charity are iffy. Most of these services benefit ‘Big Charity’ that use your donations to pay for ‘chuggers’ (charity muggers) to ask people for money to pay for company cars and TV ads. The Wills cost around £100 with a charity donation. So why not just make a good online Will (below) and then either donate or leave money to charity?
- It’s best to use a solicitor to draft a Will for complicated estates, if you earn over the inheritance tax threshold, have a business or live overseas.
The Best Online Will Makers
All of these offer online Wills for around £100 (or £150 for couples) and appear to be legally-checked by solicitors, to ensure they are then okay for Probate. Do your homework and read through each site, as some offer different services like storing your Will and free or low-cost updates (you must update your Will if your circumstances drastically change like getting married or divorced). After receiving your Will, you must have it signed by two Witnesses, before storing safely, along with any Codicils (documents on care of pets etc).
- Farewill has a team of experts that check your Will within 5 days. You can even make your Will online without paying a penny (you can then send it off to be checked, once ordered). The company also offers fixed price expert and trustworthy services for Probate (for simple or complex estates).
- Beyond Wills offers a near-identical service, for the same kind of prices, so it’s up to you, which one to choose.
- Kwil can store your Will in a Virtual Lockbox. You can assign guardians and trustees to look after children, leave charity donations and make free changes in the first year.
- Legal Wills offers good basic online Wills, along with a host of add-ons like Will storage, and expatriate Wills.
Did you know that despite dying a millionairess, Amy Winehouse had not made a Will? All the years of wrangling have left her family with nothing, the only winners were the lawyers. The same happened to Bob Marley.
Make a Pet Trust
Under UK Law, you can’t leave money to pets. But if you are concerned to leave them some money after you die, you can do this through making a Pet Trust. You can ask a solicitor to set one up for you. Leave these details with your Will.
April King has a great post on how to care for pets, after you die. Under the law, a pet is classed as property (we both know they are more than that). But that’s why you write a ‘letter of wishes’, and include info for others (likes and dislikes, food and medication, whether they are terrified of fireworks etc).
Jen writes that you should aim to leave around £30,000 with a Codicil (a written document of wishes) to account for the high cost of vet care, and risk of inflation. A trust is limited to 21 years, so if you own a horse, parrot or turtle, you will need to budget for beyond this time. Ensure you legally ‘own’ the pet, and that the beneficiary is aware (for instance, a dog may be going to a new home, while two bunnies may be going to a relative).
The Cinnamon Trust offers pet-friendly care homes and can foster or adopt dogs of elderly and terminally ill guardians, if you organise beforehand. If you have no relatives, order a free Dog’s Trust Canine Care Card and keep it in your wallet. If you die or unable to care for pets, this charity will try to find homes for animals together (RSPCA sometimes puts unwanted animals to sleep).
Of course, you can always do this unofficially, and just have a friendly word with relatives and friends who love your animal friends. This can give you peace of mind.