Bill Thomson is a will writing specialist and takes 5 minutes out his day to chat to us about creating a will and the importance of selecting the right will writing partner.
1. How vital is it for people to get their affairs in order by creating a will?
Ans: It is perhaps hard to appreciate, but when you create a Will you really are leaving a gift for others. Not in what you will leave in your Will but the fact that you will make an already difficult process – the dealing with the passing of a loved one – as easy as it can be under the circumstances.
Dying without a Will leaves your loved ones having to deal with additional bureaucracy that they could well do without. Having a Will in place ensures that no additional burden is left for your loved ones to deal with – not to mention the additional cost in having to go through the Courts and almost certainly having to employ additional legal advice on how to wind your affairs up. As well as this, if you want to ensure that your estate is passing to the person (or charity) you want, and that a person of whom you approve will look after your children if they are under 16 in Scotland and 18 in England, a professionally constructed Will is vital.
2. When do you think is the perfect age to create your first will? Once the will is created how frequently should it be updated?
Ans. As soon as you have acquired assets or children you need to put a Will in place. Once you own property – regardless of how modest – you need to leave a clear indication of whom you would like to inherit that property if you die. Even if you are young and single, it is not a straightforward process for your parents to wind up your estate if you have not left a Will. If you are in a domestic partnership that has not been formalised, especially if there are children, a Will is essential. There is a legal minefield that can easily be avoided if you have a Will.
Like insurances, it is wise to review a will on every anniversary or earlier if there has been a significant event e.g. having a child, death of a beneficiary or executor.
3. We see a lot of cheap online wills, but in your opinion are they value for money and safe?
Ans. Will needs to be clear, in line with the law and valid. There is no substitute for consulting a professional who will spend time with you discussing your circumstances fully; who will explain the implications of what you are doing (for instance, in Scotland, it is very difficult to disinherit a child); and who will actually give you advice on how your Will can be constructed. If that professional gets it wrong, you have the back up of Professional Indemnity Insurance which will pay to put things right. Once it is constructed, a good professional will meet with you to ensure that it is signed properly and will give you advice on storage. Most will have access to professional storage facilities which are very important.
4. What processes do you go through when helping somebody organise their will; it can be a depressing thought after all?
Ans. Funnily enough, no one seems to find the process depressing. What makes the job of an Estate Planner so enjoyable is that the overwhelming emotion people experience once their Will is in place is that of relief. Few Estate Planners will have heard clients complain that, having written their Will, they are depressed. For most, it is a weight off their shoulders knowing that something they meant to do years ago has now been done.
The process usually takes place in a client’s home which means that they are comfortable. It involves a conversation about the family, both younger and older generations. Once all of the relevant information has been gathered then advice about how the Will should be drawn up can be given. The whole process takes on average an hour. The follow up signing meeting takes around half an hour at the most.
5. You’ve been a network member for some time now, what benefits do you get from being part of the ER Network?
Ans. Being a member of ER Network means that there is a constant interchange of ideas. I would hope that other ER members have found the benefit of having an experienced Estate Planner in their midst has complemented the financial advice they give their clients. Many of the other members now see Estate Planning as another protection product – which it is really – and integrate it into their advice process.
The continual professional development that occurs within the ER Network means that, as an estate planner, I can see what financial services products are there to complement the estate planning advice I might give. It makes for a comprehensive service for the clients.