MSE News

Law firm April King introduces surprise fee to store thousands of wills - we explain your rights, plus free or cheap alternatives

Thousands of people whose wills are being held by law firm April King Legal have now been told they'll have to pay for this service, which was previously free. How much you'll be charged depends on the option you pick, but it could be as much as £72 a year or a one-off £125 upon death.

Law firms can charge for storing your will, but you don't have to stay with them just because that's where it was written  – there are other cheaper or free options available. Below we explain your rights. 

For further information, see our Cheap and free wills guide. This also includes info on 'Free Wills Month', which runs until the end of October and entitles those aged 55 and over to a free solicitor-drafted will. If you miss out on this, check if you qualify for Will Aid instead, which runs in November but is open to bookings now. 

Is your will currently stored with April King? You have three options

April King Legal told MoneySavingExpert.com that it had previously offered free will storage to its customers, as a complimentary offer. But it said this offer was not contractual, meaning April King could introduce a charge for storage at anytime. 

It has now written to 5,000 of its customers - it's unclear if this is ALL April King customers with a stored will or just a selection (we've asked and will update this story if we get a response) - advising them that they will either have to:

  • Join its membership support service, which costs £72 a year. This gives your executors - who sort out your estate when you die - extra support, including legal advice, after your death. There is no additional charge to your estate after death.  

    OR

  • Have their will returned for £35 (plus VAT). You will then need to decide whether you want to store your will elsewhere or keep it at home.

    OR

  • Continue to have their will stored for free until death, after which a £125 fee will be charged to their estate. April King told us this is to cover the "additional costs incurred" for storing the will in a separate facility compared to the storage used for its membership support customers. If you don't respond to April King, this is the option that will automatically apply. 

These options apply regardless of whether you have a copy of your will stored at home or elsewhere. We've asked April King how long existing customers have to make a decision and we'll update this story if we hear more. We've also asked April King what the options are for those requesting will-writing services going forward.  

Want your will returned? You may be able to challenge April King's £35 fee

Whether you can challenge the fee to have your will returned depends on the wording of the terms and conditions you agreed to when your will was initially written and stored. If there's nothing in your contract stating that you could be charged for this, you may be able to argue otherwise. 

Solicitor Gary Rycroft told us that while a firm can begin charging for a formerly free service, such as storing wills, it shouldn't charge customers to exit that contact, for example, by introducing a fee to a return a will. Mr Rycroft added:  "In my view, what clients should be offered is a choice to collect the will in person at no charge, or to have them posted, and for the client to pay for the cost of secure postage."

We've contacted the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), both of which regulate April King, for their view and we will update this story when we know more.

If your will is returned, you'll likely be charged to store it elsewhere

Typically, the original will is needed for probate, which allows executors to deal with loved ones' estates, and copies may not be accepted. It's therefore important that your original will is stored safely and that you tell your executors where they'll be able to find it.

If a solicitor helped you to write your will, they'll usually store it for you – generally for free. Where a solicitor hasn't written your will, they may agree to store them though you'll generally be charged. You are, however, under no obligation to use the solicitor that wrote and/or stored your will to take on probate services after death - these are totally separate services. 

Some examples of where wills can be stored include:  

  • The Probate Service in England and Wales. There's a £20 one-off fee to do this, but withdrawing the will is free. 
  • The Probate Office in Northern Ireland. This costs a one-off fee of £39 fee. We've asked if there's a withdrawal fee and we'll update this story when we know more. 
  • In Scotland, you can find out more about the various options for storing your will on the Citizens Advice Scotland website, as there is no probate equivalent.

See our Top cheap and free wills guide for more information.

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!