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Cheap and Free Wills

Ways to make a will cheaply

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Marcel

Updated October 2017

Let's be brutal – we're all going to die. And if it happens when you're will-less, on top of the grief, it can cause a financial nightmare for the people you care about.

Worryingly, one in two UK adults haven't got a will, according to new research from Unbiased.co.uk. This guide shows you how you can get will-writing done for free, either by a solicitor in return for a small charity donation, or DIY if it's simple.

While every effort's been made to ensure this article's accuracy, it doesn't constitute legal advice tailored to your individual circumstances. If you act on it, you acknowledge that you do so at your own risk. We can't assume responsibility and don't accept liability for any damage or loss which may arise as a result of your reliance upon it.

Do you need a will?

Planning a will if you have a family (image of lego family) Die will-less and your affairs can be in limbo for years. Yet many either don't want to think about making a will or are worried about the cost. You must be aware it could leave behind big problems, possibly as severe as being unable to pay the bills as the bank's locked off the money. So...

Whatever your age, if you've assets, eg, a house, savings, or a business, and people or others you'd like to look after, consider making a will.

While thinking, talking and planning for death may feel uncomfortable, you need to consider how much worse the situation would be if you died or became incapacitated – through illness, accident, old age or emergency – without sorting it.

Not making a will can cause months or years of grief for your loved ones. Site user Hollie Bird tweeted us:

Two years on I'm dealing with the fall out from Mum not having a will! Please get a will!

Hollie Bird

There are many specific reasons for writing a will, including:

  • Children

    If you have children or step-children under 18, you should choose who will look after them and ensure there are funds to help.

  • Unmarried couples

    The law doesn't really recognise this, so don't expect anything to go to your partner if you don't make a will.

  • Divorced

    You may want to update your will to include what happens to your assets if a previous partner remarries.

  • Pets

    Decide what should happen to family pets.

  • Specific funeral plans

    If you know what you want your funeral to be like, you can detail it so that your family doesn't have to make the decisions.

  • Property

    'Joint tenant' mortgages automatically pass to the other owner. If you've a 'tenants in common' mortgage, it's important to say what happens to your share of the house. If you own a property overseas, inheritance laws may be different to the UK.

  • Change in circumstances

    Update your will when you marry, divorce or have kids.

  • Small businesses

    If you're a sole director, it's possible that if you die without executors, nobody can authorise payments (including to staff), so your business could collapse.

What does a will do?

Writing a will has four main functions:

  1. To name your executors

    These are the people who'll look after the financial process when you die. Try to choose a responsible and trusted friend or relative, who can think clearly in a troubled time.

    Alternatively some name a bank or solicitor, though they often charge monstrous fees (and can add themselves automatically), so make sure you only allow this if you've chosen it for yourself.

    They're also the people who will sort out finances – such as paying off the mortgage and/or other debts out of your estate. Your estate is everything you own at the point you die, including your property, businesses, car, savings, investments, pension fund, life insurance, expensive jewellery, pets and more. (See what happens to debts when you die.)

    One useful tip we've seen recently is to even include internet passwords in a separate document to accompany your will so that your executor has access to all of your online accounts.

    Do remember though, you're under NO obligation to add the writer of your will as an executor, or in fact buy any additional services on top of the writing costs. Some may suggest this, or add it to your will as default, so check.

  2. Distribute your estate (image of White House)

    To distribute your estate

    This is where you work out who you want your estate to go to. As explained above, that means everything you own at the point you die, including your property, businesses, car, savings, investments, pension fund, life insurance, expensive jewellery, pets and more.

    Be aware, though, you can't force people to take what you leave them. Whether it's a sofa, or a house in negative equity, they don't have to take it. If a person disclaims a bequest, it goes in with the residue of the estate. This is dealt with under the residuary clause in the will.

  3. To provide for any surviving children aged under 18

    If you die, responsibility for your children automatically goes to anyone else with ‘parental responsibility’. Mothers automatically have this, with fathers it’s trickier, see table below.

    Fathers and parental responsibility

    Situation

    Responsibility
    Father married to mother Has parental responsibility
    Father not married to mother and child born 1 Dec 2003 or later and father named on birth certificate Has parental responsibility

    Father, any other scenario (eg, child born before 1 Dec 2003, father not named on birth certificate)

    Does not automatically have parental responsibility

    Note: The above information applies to England and Wales. See Gov.uk for info on Scotland, Northern Ireland, same-sex relationships and adoption..

    People with dependent children should make a will to name a guardian(s) for their children, and also to allocate funds to ensure they're financially supported while growing up (though another signed, witnessed written document will suffice).

    If you don't make a will, and there is no one else with parental responsibility, the courts will decide what happens to your child in the event of your death.

  4. To reduce inheritance tax

    If you die intestate (without a will) there are strict laws about to whom and how your estate is distributed (see intestate rules). This causes two problems. First, the money may not go where you want, and secondly, it's likely to be inefficient for inheritance tax purposes.

    The law says you pay 40% of any assets worth over £325,000 that you leave, so those with valuable houses or larger estates could pay a fortune. Yet there are many legal ways you can plan ahead to reduce this.

A wills law reform may soon make will-writing easier

The Law Commission, an independent body which takes on projects to reform areas of law, has said current will laws are outdated and need to be overhauled.

An example of this is that wills are only valid if the person writing it understands what they're doing – however, the law uses a Victorian test which takes no account of modern medical understanding, eg, it doesn't reflect what we now know about conditions such as dementia.

It also wants courts to have the power to recognise a will even if it hasn't been written under formal guidelines, allow for electronic wills to be made and lower the age people can make a will to 16 (currently it's 18).

So the commission has launched a consultation (which closes on 10 November 2017), with the aim of reforming this and other rules.

For full details including how to respond, see the Law Commission Wills Consultation.

Option 1: Free professional wills

Wills are legal documents, and as small errors can cause big problems, it's preferable to have someone legally qualified draft it for you. But getting a solicitor to write your will isn't cheap. Even a simple will could easily cost £150 in fees, and you'll have to pay VAT on top of that.

However some solicitors have more expertise at will-writing than others, and just because you get it through a charity is no guarantee of quality. Unfortunately it's not easy to review and assess individual solicitors or will-writers so our primary focus is on cost, not feedback or expertise.

If you've complicated affairs and a will-writing expert is your prime concern, then looking for recommendations and the reputation of individual will writers or solicitors is the best bet.

Are you already entitled to one?

A number of organisations and groups provide wills to limited numbers of qualifying individuals, so check if you're entitled to one of these first.

Trade unions and employers

TUC logoA number of trade unions, including major ones like the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the NASUWT teachers' union, the Fire Brigades Union and Unison offer free or heavily discounted will-writing services to their members – so if you've got your union card they're worth checking.

Alternatively a few employers may offer will-writing as part of their legal services. Check exactly how it works, though. If it's just filling in a template letter, you may be better with the full solicitor-drafted options below.

Included in home or car insurance legal cover

Image of a houseIf you opted to get legal cover as part of your home or car insurance policy, check whether it includes a will service. For example, More Than's approx £20 home insurance add-on legal service allows access to a range of wills and other legal template documents.

Complete your details and the will is checked by a legal team, who'll send it back to you for signing.

Of course, this is only suitable for simple wills. But it's worth seeing if your insurer offers it.

Charity-based schemes

Many charities offer solicitor will writing schemes, and these are usually completely free. In return, while you're not obliged to, they hope you'll make a donation or bequest (a donation in your will) as part of it. Here's a list of the main schemes...

Do remember it is a charity paying for your will, and it may be shelling out £100s, so please seriously consider leaving a bequest.

Free Wills Month – in England, Northern Ireland & Wales

Free wills month logo

Every March and October it's Free Wills Month. It offers – as the name suggests – free solicitor-drafted wills. But you must be aged 55+ to get an individual will. If you're getting a 'mirror will' as a couple, only one of you needs to be 55+.

Normally, you could pay £100 or more (plus 20% of the cost as VAT) for even the simplest will.

How do I get my free will? You must first complete the form on the Free Wills Month website. It'll then come up with solicitors close to you who are taking part (if there are any).

It's available in more than 60 locations (London is not included) - to find the one nearest to you, just go on to the website and type in your postcode.

How can I help the charities that back the scheme? The charities involved pay for the solicitors' time, so be prepared for your solicitor to ask you to consider making a bequest to a charity in your will (leaving the charity something when you die). The wish is that you will do so, but you're under no obligation.

What charities are sponsoring this scheme?

What if I have complex financial affairs? The scheme covers simple wills – so if your affairs are complex, your solicitor's likely to ask you to pay a contribution to cover the extra time they spend writing your will.

Appointments are also limited by the number of wills each solicitor is happy to write under the scheme.

Quick stats:

  • Who's it for? People aged 55 and over
  • When it is? March and October
  • Where is it? England, Northern Ireland & Wales
  • Who writes the will? External solicitor
  • Donation asked for? You'll be asked to leave money for charity in your will. But the decision is yours

Will Aid – nationwide

WillAid logoA UK-wide scheme, run every November, Will Aid teams up with over 900 solicitors to provide basic wills. One of its main advantages is it doesn't impose a minimum age on who can get a will.

There's no set fee but Will Aid hopes you'll make a donation of around £95 for a single will (£150 for a couple). This is a good price for a solicitor-drafted will but of course if you can’t afford it, you can give less, don’t game it though as it is a charity event.

Just follow three simple steps:

  1. Put your postcode in the Will Aid website or phone 0300 0309 558 to find your nearest participating solicitor.

  2. Contact it to arrange an appointment, stating you're calling as part of the Will Aid scheme. You could then use its will planner to prepare for the meeting.

  3. Before you go to the appointment, donate via the Will Aid website, and take a print-out of the receipt with you when you go (or you can donate once you're at the solicitor's).

Solicitors do this primarily to help the charities, though of course it does bring in potential new customers as well.

Usually, this is a very efficient system. However, for a scheme this size there can be the odd glitch, such as appointments filling up quickly. For a discussion on the etiquette of suggested donations and responses, read the full Will Aid discussion on the forum.

You also get free will registration (to make it easy for your family to find your will) via Certainty National Wills Register. This year's redemption code is willaid2017.

Quick stats:

  • Who's it for? Everyone
  • When it is? November
  • Where is it? Nationwide
  • Who writes the will? External solicitor
  • Donation asked for? £95 single, £150 joint

Will Relief Scotland

Will relief Scotland logo Each September, Scottish residents can get a will through Will Relief Scotland. This is a partnership between Scottish solicitors and four charities which specialise in development work and the relief of poverty overseas.

There's no set fee but suggested donations are £80 for a single, £120 for a joint and £40 to update your will. The donation's given to the solicitor to pass on to Will Relief Scotland. Find your nearest solicitor on the Will Relief Scotland site or phone 01349 830777.

The charities are: Mission Aviation Fellowship (in Glasgow), EMMS International (in Edinburgh), Blythswood Care (in Evanton, Ross-shire) and Signpost International (in Dundee).

Quick stats:

  • Who's it for? Everyone who's a Scottish resident
  • When it is? September
  • Where is it? Throughout Scotland
  • Who writes the will? External solicitor
  • Donation asked for? Suggested donation – £80 single, £120 joint, £40 update

Individual charity schemes

Most individual charities that operate free will-drafting services do it in the hope of a bequest (a donation in your will). This has the advantage that you needn't pay now, it'll come out of your estate and it's inheritance-tax deductible.

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research logoOver-55s can get a free, simple will drawn up or updated via the Cancer Research UK Free Will Service. You can find your nearest participating solicitor on the charity's website or by calling their Regional Legacy Team on 0300 123 7733.

Once you've found a solicitor you want to use, call them to arrange an appointment, making sure you mention you're using the Cancer Research UK Free Will Service.

Download and complete the Free Will Service Form on Cancer Research UK’s website and take it along to your appointment. The solicitor will then prepare everything for you and once your will is finished and signed they will invoice Cancer Research UK up to a fixed fee.

The Cancer Research UK Free Will Service is free to you but do think about making a bequest to Cancer Research UK to support their work.

Quick stats:

  • Who's it for? Over 55s
  • When it is? All year
  • Where is it? Nationwide
  • Donation asked for? Bequest hoped for
  • Who writes the will? External solicitor or template checked

The Stroke Association

Stroke Association logoThe Stroke Association offers a free simple will. To get info, either email info@stroke.org.uk, complete the online form on The Stroke Association website or call 020 7566 1505.

You'll be sent a free will pack within five working days which will explain details of its free will scheme.

Quick stats:

  • Who's it for? 60+ (or stroke survivors who are 18+)
  • When it is? Limited period. Contact for details
  • Where is it? Nationwide
  • Who writes the will? External solicitor
  • Donation asked for? You will be asked to leave a gift for the Stroke Association in your will but the decision is yours

The Children's Hospital

The Children's Hospital Charity logoThe Children's Hospital Charity (based in Sheffield) has partnered with a national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, to offer a discounted will-writing service that also benefits the charity.

Contact Irwin Mitchell directly by either calling 0330 1230882 or emailing wills@irwinmitchell.co.uk quoting TCHC to get a standard single will for £100 (normally £175) or a standard 'mirror will' for £190 (normally £275). Irwin Mitchell donate 20% of the fee you pay to the charity.

Note that if you have more complex will needs you may have to pay additional costs – but these will be explained to you before you commit.

Quick stats:

  • Who's it for? No restrictions
  • When it is? Ongoing
  • Where is it? Nationwide
  • Who writes the will? Irwin Mitchell solicitor
  • Donation asked for? 20% of discounted fee is donated to the charity

Other charities

If you have a particular charity in mind that you'd like to leave a gift to, check with it whether it runs a scheme of its own. There are a number of charities signed up to the National Free Wills Network that also offer free simple wills – usually for charity members and over-55s.

The charity will usually check that you have donated to them in the past, or are a member, to be eligible for the free will. Each charity's offering is slightly different so ensure you read up.

The following charities are signed up and will offer a free simple will prepared by a solicitor: Amnesty International, Alzheimer's Research UK, British Academy, Children with Cancer, CIWF, Dignity in Dying, Guide Dogs, Independent Age, Liberty 80, Oxfam, Royal Voluntary Service, Shelter, Soil Association and Tenovus Cancer Care.

Option 2: Low-cost professional wills

If the free solicitor writing services above don't fit, there are a few other low-cost options for making a will. These are usually best where affairs are simple.

If you use a solicitor-run service, solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and you can also go to the Legal Ombudsman if things do go wrong. Our expertise, of course, is saving money so the following are based on price, not quality.

Which? codes – £84.50 single, £129.50 joint

Which Legal Services logo Via this blagged link, Which?* offers an online will-writing service with single wills costing £84.50 and joint (mirror) wills £129.50 (usually priced at £169 and £259 respectively) as long as you pay for it by Tuesday 31 October 2017. You'll need promotional code PMLS10 for a single will or PMLM10 for a mirror will.

It has three different levels of will-writing services – this is for the premium service but the code makes it cheaper than the other two. It gets you a professionally bound will and a token year of will storage if you want Which? to store it for you - £25/year after.

Which? Wills says this service may not be suitable for those wanting to include a business in the will.

Once you have purchased your will you complete it in your own time (you can call for support on 01992 822 803). Its wills specialists will then check and review your will and once it's approved will send you a printed and bound will to send back to it for secure storage (only free for the first year).

To get the discount, follow the link to buy online.

Quick stats:

  • Who's it for? Everyone
  • Where is it? England, Scotland, Wales and NI
  • Who writes the will? You but the template is then checked
  • Costs: Single £169, joint £259 (discounts often available, see current discount above)

Co-op Legal Services - £99 single, £185 joint

Co-op Legal Services logoVia this blagged link, Co-op Legal Services* offers a fixed fee, will-writing services including free, secure storage, with single wills costing £99 and joint or mirror wills for couples costing £185 (usually priced at £150 and £234 respectively) as long as you apply by Thursday 30 November.

It’s an online will-writing service with access to a professional will writer over the phone who will talk you through anything you’re unsure of. Start your will online and you pay for your will when the will writer calls you back to go over it with you.

You'll then be sent a draft will where you can change anything that's not right. While slightly more expensive than the Which? offer above, once you’re happy with it and have signed it, Co-op will store your will for free for life. Co-op Legal Services is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

To get the discount, follow the link above to buy online.

Quick stats:

  • Who's it for? Everyone
  • Where is it? England and Wales
  • Who writes the will? Co-op Legal Services but you can amend it
  • Costs: Single £150, joint £234 (not including discounts, detailed above)

Online solicitors – usually cheapest, but check what service you're getting

There are various fixed-fee legal document services that allow you to carry out certain legal processes, including creating a will, solely online.

You're usually asked a series of questions to create your document, which will then be sent to a solicitor to check it (including conflict checks and money laundering) and suggest any changes before being sent back to you.

Rocket Lawyer: While Rocket Lawyer works on a £25-a month subscription basis, the trick is to use its seven-day free trial. Use these free days to create and get your will checked (a 30-min consultation with a qualified solicitor) and you'll never have to pay a penny, so long as you cancel in time. You can still access your legal document online after the end of your free trial to print and download it but you won’t be able to edit it.

GlossLegal: Developed by a trust and estates solicitor, GlossLegal charges £34.95 for a self-printing single will and £89.95 for a bound and posted version for couples.

ExpertWills: A solicitor in Cambridge offers wills over the telephone (seven days a week until 7pm) via its ExpertWills service. If you quote MoneySavingExpert you can get a single will for £99 or a 'mirror will' for £149.

Quick stats:

  • Who are they for? Everyone
  • Where are they? Nationwide
  • Who writes the will? Template checked
  • Costs: Various

Local solicitors – find a will writer near you

You can find a local solicitor on the Law Society's database. Or if you need one that provides specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers, try Solicitors For The Elderly.

Option 3: DIY wills

If you've very simple circumstances, a 'template' will, available from stationery shops or computer software packages, which you complete and fill at home, can be a cheap way to do it.

Before going further, you must know if you make any mistakes, you won't benefit from the protection you'd get if a solicitor did it, whether that's professional indemnity insurance, recourse to the Legal Ombudsman, or various codes of practice from The Society of Will Writers or the Institute of Professional Will Writers.

Online DIY wills

Perhaps the best known template is the Lawpack* brand which starts at £11.49. Alternatively, the free legal advice site Compact Law has some free-to-download templates.

There are also templates on several websites where you input your details online and then you're emailed your will, or sent a copy in the post. Sites include: Online Will Writer (costs £29.95, covers England, Wales and Scotland) and Makeawillonline.co.uk (£29.50 for one or £39.50 for two, covers England and Wales), which is a member of the Society of Will Writers.

Farewill*: An online service that quickly takes you through the process of creating a simple will for individuals or couples in England and Wales. Normally costing £50 for a single will, use the promotional code MSE-OCT at the checkout and you'll get a 60% discount (making it £20 for individuals and £40 for couples). Farewill does charge a £10 annual fee to make unlimited will updates (your first year is free) so diarise if you want to cancel before that.

SimpleWills.net*: Complete an online, multiple-choice questionnaire which forms the basis of your will. Pay for it and then download and sign. A single will cost you £27 (usually priced £38.95) with the code MSE-2017-SW; a 'mirror will' for couples will cost £48 (usually priced £68.95) with the discount code MSE-2017-MW. Your first rewrite is free with 10% discount off subsequent rewrites/updates. SimpleWills.net is a member of the Society of Will Writers and covers England, Wales and Scotland.

QWills: A company based in Cardiff offers a subsidised will writing service in the hope that you'll leave a legacy to one of the more than eight charities it supports. QWills allow you to make a will online, with a single will costing £60 or a 'mirror will' costing £99.

Your Will Be DoneA UK company offers an online service called 'Will for life' where you make a one-off payment and are able to update your will (for free) as often as needed throughout your lifetime. The will is a template with guidance notes and costs £19.97 for a single will or £29.97 for a 'mirror will'. The company is a member of the Society of Will Writers and to get your will checked by a legal professional costs £25 extra.

What do I need to know to do a DIY will?

There are some basic legal requirements that are needed to make a will and DIYing will mean these rest on your shoulders (remember the potential Inheritance Tax issues too).

For example, you must be over the age of 18 and have the mental capacity to make a will. It also needs to be dated and witnessed correctly and it must state that it replaces all previous versions (and if there are any, these should be destroyed).

It's common for people to make mistakes, such as names of people or charities being misspelled or information about assets being too vague, so be careful and be as specific as possible.

In anything other than simple cases, as it's a legal document, a solicitor or qualified will-writer should check it fully to ensure its accuracy and to avoid the chance of it being invalid or contested when you die, which could cost more in the long run.

Q&A: Wills and inheritance

How do you store a will?

Do debts die with you?

What about inheritance tax?

Can I leave a will for if I become incapacitated?

What happens if I don't leave a will?

What can I do if I think a relative's estate has gone to the Crown?

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