Why bother with a will?
A will is one of the most important legal documents anyone can have.
It doesn't matter what you own or how big or small your family is. Your will is your only chance to say exactly what you want to happen when you are no longer around.
Put simply, if you don't have a will, you don't have a say. Instead, the law decides for you. Fortunately, there are many ways to get your will written—at any time of life.
You could go to a regulated lawyer like a solicitor. But, in England and Wales, the law lets anyone write wills. That means you can ask an accountant or your bank to write your will. You can buy a DIY will kit to fill out yourself. Or you can pay someone who works as a full-time will writer to write your will.
What does a will writer do?
A will writer can explain some of your options. They can help you with:
- what your will says, so that your estate (whatever you own and your financial assets) goes where you want it to
- the things that need to happen to make sure your will is put into effect after your death
- other details such as where to store your will, who should be responsible for it, and who the executors of the will are.
Are will writers regulated?
The law in England and Wales allows anyone to write a will. But it is important to get your will right so that it is legally valid and does what you want it to.
If you go to a regulated lawyer for a will, you will be covered by the protections offered by a legal services regulator. Financial advisers and accountants sometimes offer will-writing services. They are also regulated, but by other bodies.
Some people work as professional will writers for will-writing companies. These companies are not regulated. But some are voluntary members of organisations like the Institute of Professional Will Writers - it isn't a regulator, but its members agree to follow a code of practice that says they must have insurance and the right expertise.
How are you protected if you use a will writer?
A will is an important document. A single mistake or error can be enough to make it invalid. And this could cause real problems for your relatives and friends after you die. Think carefully about who you want to write your will, and how you are protected.
If you are a customer of a business that writes wills, you have the right to be treated fairly and to a good level of service - thanks to the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Some will writers are members of organisations that require them to have the right experience and insurance.
If you choose a regulated lawyer like a solicitor to write your will, you have more protections and rights if something goes wrong.
Top tip: Always find out if the person you choose to write your will is regulated or belongs to a membership body. Check their website or ask them directly before you agree to get a will written by them.
What can I do if I have a complaint about my will writer?
If you are unhappy with the way things are going with the person writing your will or have concerns after your will has been written, don't be afraid to speak up. Contact your will writer to explain what's wrong. Ask them to put things right. If you are paying them, you have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
If the writer of your will is a regulated lawyer, you can make a formal complaint to them and set out how you want things to be put right. You should do this in writing or in an email. If you are not happy with their response, you can complain to the Legal Ombudsman. If you need help writing a formal complaint, look at the Legal Ombudsman's example complaint letter.
If the writer of your will belongs to a membership body, that organisation may have guidance about how to make a complaint or a complaints procedure that you can follow. Take a look at their website.
How should I pay for a will writer?
Many businesses offer will-writing services. Shop around and get quotes before you decide on a will writer.
Top Tip: Before using a will writer, ask them to tell what work they will do for you and to explain all of the costs or how they will be worked out.
Where can I find a will writer?
You can find will writers working in many different businesses: law firms, accountants’ firms and some charities. Some companies are set up just to provide will-writing services. To find a will writer, you could:
- ask someone you know to recommend a will writer they have used>
- do a website search for 'will writing'
- search the Solicitors Regulation Authority's Solicitors Register
- search for a Probate Practitioner in CILEx Regulation’s Find a lawyer or Find a law firm
- use the Council of Licensed Conveyancers search for a probate practitioner
- search for will writers in your local area online