The view from an expert will-writing solicitor
Are you looking for expert advice on the need for a will, how to go about arranging a will and what the process involves? If so, read on.
Iain Wanstall is a qualified solicitor of over 20 years. He specialises in private client law and works on wills, succession planning and lasting powers of attorney. Here, he offers advice on writing a will and why taking this step is so important for an individual and their loved ones.
"Many people think they don’t have enough assets to need a will, but when we meet they quickly realise that they’d like to control what happens to their assets after they die. People often think what they have automatically goes to their nearest and dearest, but the only way to ensure that happens is with a will. A will provides control; without one, what happens to any bank accounts, securities, property and other assets you own at the time of death is decided by the laws of intestacy, which means they could even end up passing to the state.
Having a will gives you peace of mind. There’s a perception that people only see lawyers when there’s a problem. This can make the experience seem daunting, but I enjoy being with people, so I aim to make any conversation as relaxing as possible. As a starting point, I think to myself, “How would I like to be treated?” At the end of the process, people often say, “Thank you for helping me get my affairs in order; now I can get on with more important things.” I advise against making a homemade will. A well drafted will covers all the angles. You’ll tell me what you want to achieve and I’ll set out the options for you. We will probably have up to an hour-long conversation. I’ll then work on your will and you will often then come back to see me to discuss the draft, cover any questions you may have and check that the will covers everything you wanted. I normally recommend that your will is prepared to offer flexibility to cover what you would want to happen if circumstances change in the future.
I see my role as giving practical, pragmatic and bespoke advice. I’ll look at what you want, and will see if there is anything additional you may need to consider. I like to make a difference, so will signpost you if I think it will help. I’d refer you to an accountant or financial adviser for money or similar matters, if appropriate. Or if you have a close family member with experience of mental health problems, I would suggest speaking to Rethink Mental Illness.
I also recommend reviewing your will every three to five years, or earlier, if there is a change in your personal circumstances or legislation. In most cases, there may be no need to make a change, but if you have, for example, an addition to the family, maybe a grandchild, you might want your will to reflect to this.
My personal experiences mean that charity is close to my heart. Throughout my career I have never just been about ticking boxes to get the job done. I’ve always wanted to add value and give something back. It’s important for me to do something for others and contribute to a worthwhile cause. Although I am not permitted to suggest making a gift in your will to a specific charity, I can raise charitable giving as an option. Clients often see wills in a very compartmentalised light, but they are often gratefully surprised when they learn that making a gift in their will to a charity is an option."
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