Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), a professional body which requires Solicitors and Law Firms to adhere to strict ethical and professional standards.
Solicitors must possess the necessary expertise and skill in order to practise and are required to continually keep their knowledge up to date.
Wills involve so much more thought than simply setting out a list of instructions on paper. By using a qualified Solicitor, you can be sure that your Will is a valid legal document, with unambiguous provisions that accurately reflect your wishes which can actually work in practice.
Will Writers are not regulated, so they are not required to have any legal training and they do not have any experience administering estates once someone has passed away. They therefore often lack the knowledge required to offer the correct advice when preparing a Will, particularly for protecting vulnerable clients, balancing the interests of beneficiaries in blended families, mitigating inheritance tax and protecting assets against the cost of long-term care.
There is a very strict procedure for signing Wills which must be adhered to. This is often overlooked as it is perceived as being so straightforward. There is no substitute for having this procedure overseen by an experienced professional, especially where a client is visually impaired, unable to communicate or physically unable sign.
In many respects, using a Will Writer is as risky as using a pre-printed proforma Will kit or a download kit from the internet. Just one word can alter the meaning of a gift, producing an entirely different result from what was intended. Putting right mistakes in badly drafted Wills can prove very costly and usually requires the consent of beneficiaries who may have benefitted unintentionally. This often leads to disputes where costs quickly escalate. Disputes also come at an emotional cost, as the distress this causes families can not be understated.
Will Writers are not Law Firms so, unlike Solicitors, they are not required to have Professional Indemnity Insurance in place. In the event that something does go wrong, any disappointed beneficiaries would have no course for recompense.
Your Will must be stored somewhere safe. This means somewhere secure, fire-proof and flood-proof, where it will not fall into the wrong hands or get lost. Solicitors must adhere to the strict rules of the Solicitors Regulation Authority governing the storage and release of documents. By entrusting your Solicitor to store your Will, you can have peace of mind that it will be held securely and kept as a private document until your death.
Post-death challenges to Wills are becoming more common in our increasingly litigious society. Any disappointed beneficiary can challenge the validity of a Will after your death if there was doubt over your mental incapacity at the time the Will was made or there are concerns that you may have been unduly influenced to favour one particular beneficiary over another.
A Will prepared by an experienced Solicitor, supported by contemporaneous notes of the client meetings, is much more likely to withstand a potential challenge than a DIY Will or a Will prepared by an unregulated Will Writer.