Making a Will Online


The blog of makeawillonline.co.uk



Make a Will Online helps charities get gifts in wills by letting charities give free wills to supporters and by accurately tracking success in campaigns (see here for more info).  These are our top five tips on what you should do before starting your gifts in wills fundraising campaign. 

1. Know what you want:

Get your charity clued up about why the charity want gifts in wills.  What are the “never never” projects that you’d love to deliver but can’t for lack of funding? What are all of the “like to haves” on the wish-list?  Having a clear idea at the start will help with organisational buy-in both internally and also with the supporters thinking of giving.

Have you received gifts from wills in the past?  What were these funds used towards?  This can give you a good idea what you might do in future, be it re-opening a facility, saving an at-risk programme, or reaching out to new beneficiaries.

Man holding up hand by Zan Ilic

Photo credit: Zan Ilic

2. Get internal Buy-In:

So many benefits come from having a well briefed and motivated people.  Engage with everyone at the charity: volunteers to CEOs to trustees.  Throw ideas out there and ask for some back.  Everything from what legacies could/ should do in the future, to the best kind of messages to share. 

Also: show everyone how easy it can be to make a will, and ensure that everyone is on point with the agreed messages that are going out.  They could be asked about them by anyone, at any time.  You can use Make a Will Online as a quick and easy way to help demystify making a will.

The first point of contact for your gifts in wills donor could be anywhere in your organisation.  A volunteer at an event, a phone conversation with the legacy officer’s colleague, a chat with a trustee.  If the potential donor speaks to someone who is “on message”, the effectiveness of the conversation will be much greater.

3. Ask your closest supporters if they have left a gift in their will, and ask them: “why?”

Who is closest to your charity? Trustees?  Patrons?  Why not ask them if they’ve left a gift in their will to you, and, if they have: what were the motivations behind the gift.  Two things could happen here: you could get some great stories about what motivates people to support your cause.  You could also prompt the first wave of gifts in wills from your closest supporters who realise that they’d like to remember their favourite charity in their will!

Let them know why you’re asking: i.e. because you’re planning on doing a campaign and want to use their stories.  You could end up with some “gifts in wills champions”. 

4. Integrate:

You needn’t necessarily throw lots of money at a campaign, but you should integrate your message.  To get a gift in a will, you need to have your message in your donor’s mind at the point they make their will.  They’ll be thinking about a lot of things: their spouse, children, dependents, friends etc.  If they intended to leave a will but forget at the vital moment, they will have lost the chance to give, and may not get around to it in future.  If your message is well integrated (events, annual reports, newsletters, banners and so on) then you will be more likely to be in their thoughts at that crucial moment.

5. Permeance:

Once you start fundraising for gifts in wills, people throughout the organisation should understand that you will do in on a sustained, ongoing basis.  The gifts in wills drive should go to the core of the charity, become embedded in its culture and grow even after you, the CEO and the trustees have moved on and been replaced.  It is too easy to scrap a gifts in wills campaign: there’s no immediate payback, often success is not measurable for over 10 years, and when budgets and resources are squeezed, the campaign could look an easy target for “rationalisation”.

The industry is littered with stories of gifts in wills campaigns that follow these three stages:  (1) get started, receive a lot of internal attention and are then mothballed after 2 or 3 years; (2) legacies are received some 5-15 years later; (3) the powers that be realise they were onto a good thing and start fundraising for gifts in wills again.

The 5-15 years of lost fundraising could have cost the charity hundreds or even thousands of gifts in wills.  With each gift worth thousands of pounds, the loss could easily reach seven figures.  It’s great that the powers that be have returned to legacy fundraising, but the lost time will never be made back.  Make sure your charity doesn’t follow that path!


Charity Gifts in Wills: how and why...


Posted on 20 September 2019


Why gifts in wills are so super, and how to get further help and peer support.

Legacies are the most cost effective way of raising money for charities.  For every £1 spent on fundraising for legacies, the payoff is better than any other channel, even fundraising for grants from trusts and foundations.  It is also less volatile than other streams of fundraising.  During economic downturns people are less likely to change their will than cancel a direct debit or tighten institutional purse-strings.

Woman holding flower by Lina Trochez

Photo credit: Lina Trochez

How to get support and learn more:

There is a fundraiser’s peer support group for Legacy and In-memory fundraisers connected to the Institute of Fundraising.  It’s organised through Yahoo Groups (a blast from the past) but the content, insight, and support from other fundraisers from all sizes of charity is unparalleled.  Go here: https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Legacymarketing and ask to join.

There are Facebook groups for fundraisers in general and there are often discussions about gifts in wills fundraising – such as this one: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1686147658271694/ .

Remember a Charity have a subscription service for their resources and pooled campaigns. The cost of this is based on the size of the charity.  Access affords not only participation in Remember a Charity week, but also access to the intranet containing all sorts of research and resources about gifts in wills. https://www.rememberacharity.org.uk/

Here at Make a Will Online we work with dozens of charities with our free wills campaigns. We are expert will writers rather than fundraising consultants – we deliver solicitor-checked wills to your supporters.  You are welcome to get in touch with us to discuss your needs.  Just contact us and ask for Oliver.

Finally, there are consultants and researchers who can and will help your efforts around messaging your supporters and getting gifts in wills.

More info about gifts in wills:

The amount of gifts in wills has been growing above the rate of inflation for a long time.  It was worth £2.6 billion a decade ago, and £3.6 billion per year now.  The increase is based on (a) increased awareness and generosity: so more people giving gifts in wills, and (b) a steady increase in the value of assets such as homes.  The forecast is that this trend will increase as more and more baby-boomers put gifts in their wills, campaigns like Remember a Charity week take hold in the national consciousness, and property values increase or plateau.

Interestingly, more smaller charities are being remembered in gifts in wills.  The educated donor is more likely to leave a gift to a charity that has personal meaning for them, or a spread of charities, with some large/ national and others more local or focussed.  So, if you are a smaller charity, you are best poised to make the most of the growth.

Fundraising for gifts in wills need not be complex affair.  Just drip-feed the message in communications so it’s always in a supporter’s mind: so they know it’s a possibility when they finally get round to making a will.  Another fundraising favourite for gifts in wills is a simple bookmark.  Having a story of the work that gifts in wills has helped you achieve, or a personal story from someone who is a “legacy hero” who can share their reasons  is a great start too

Due to its nature, gifts in wills tend to provide income to a charity a number of years down the line.  If you are able to ascertain who your supporters who have left a gift in their will are, you have the chance to build close relationships with people who hold your cause in extremely high regard.

It is never possible to guess when you’ll get a gift that is pledged. You can try to work it out actuarially, but it’s a fool’s errand unless you have very high numbers of gifts in wills each year.  For smaller charities with a handful a year, it’s better to put together a wishlist of things that you would like to have, then apply funds when the money comes in.

 

 

 


Making a will is an important piece of life admin.  Making a will is the only way to make sure that your wishes are carried out when you die: whether that is to ensure that your spouse and children are looked after, to leave a gift to people or charities closest to you, to ensure that your estate is split fairly bearing in mind gifts you’ve made during your lifetime, or to disinherit someone that might otherwise get a share of your estate, but whom you do not want to benefit from your wealth after you’ve died.

However, there are lots of ways that a will can be challenged by someone who feels that they’ve been left out unfairly, or if a gift (e.g. to a close friend or charity) is a surprise or somehow offends the other beneficiaries.  When this happens, a jilted beneficiary can apply to the courts to ask for a share of your estate, even if you didn’t want that to happen.  One of the most common challenges is by saying that you didn’t have “Mental Capacity” to understand what you were doing when you wrote the will.  Mental Capacity is a fairly nebulous phrase, and it is not clearly defined at law.  It does not, for example, follow the statutory definition set out in the Mental Capacity Act of 2005, or any of the other pieces of mental health legislation.

Kissing Couple by Esther Ann

Photo credit: Esther Ann

When it comes to making a will, courts will look at all sorts of things over and above any diagnosis of any degenerative disease or mental health issues.  It is perfectly possible for a will of someone with a diagnosis of e.g. Alzheimer’s Disease to be deemed to be valid by the courts.  Likewise, someone with a clean bill of health could have their will successfully challenged by someone written out of their will. 

What do the courts look at?

The courts will weigh the facts available to them and come to a decision.  The good news is that the principle that someone should have the right to determine their own affairs as they see fit is given a lot of weight.  The courts recognise that in a world where the elderly can be side-lined and be left without power or influence, the exercise of discretion when making a will can be one of the few areas where influence can be exerted. 

A court will want to be reasonably satisfied of of the following (from the case “Banks v Goodfellow”):

  1. That the person making the will understood they were making a will;
  2. They know (roughly) what assets form their estate (property, investments, cash etc);
  3. They know who might expect to inherit (even if they don’t all make it into the will);
  4. There is no “…disorder of the mind or insane delusions”.

The final point in particular can be open to interpretation.  It does not follow statutory guidance – rather – it is intended to reflect the reality of the situation.  If someone suffers from a mentally degenerative disease, you might think that they can’t make a will.  However, it is often the case that someone can have “good days” and “bad days”.  A will made on a good day can be perfectly well executed.  The steps you can take to protect the will maker’s wishes can be found below.

The second set of rules that the courts follow (from the case Parker v Felgate) are:

  1. The person had testamentary capacity when they gave instructions; and
  2. They remember giving instructions and understand that the will has been drafted in accordance with their instructions.

This could be seen to be re-stating the rule in Banks v Goodfellow, but it gives rise to subtly different tests. 

What can I do/ The Golden Rule.

The above two cases give indications of what you can do to protect the wishes in your will, especially when making a will face to face with a solicitor.  You should make sure that your advisor takes detailed notes of your wishes (or you keep a diary setting out all of the necessary information, that can be shown to be contemporaneous with your will). 

However, above all, the best thing you can do is follow the “Golden Rule” as set out in Kenward v Adams.  This says that:

“…in the case of an aged testator or a testator who has suffered a serious illness, there is one golden rule which should always be observed, however straightforward matters may appear, and however difficult or tactless it may be to suggest that precautions be taken: the making of a will by such a testator ought to be witnessed or approved by a medical practitioner who satisfies himself of the capacity and understanding of the testator, and records and preserves his examination and finding…

To recap:

In order to best protect your wishes in a will, do the following:

(a)    Make a will in front of a qualified solicitor, or, if this is not possible – make sure you keep a clear note showing that you know the tests in Banks v Goodfellow, i.e.

  1. You understand you are making a will;
  2. You know (roughly) what assets form your estate (property, investments, cash etc);
  3. You know who might expect to inherit (even if they don’t all make it into your will);
  4. You have no “…disorder of the mind or insane delusions” (see the Golden Rule for this).

(b)    Make it clear that you have given the instructions yourself and you know the legal effect of a will; and

(c)     Make sure a doctor or other qualified medical practitioner is a witness to your will, and also make sure they take a contemporaneous note saying that you had testamentary capacity and keep that with their professional files (and let you have a copy).

Be aware, however, that no approach is bulletproof.  A court can hold a will to be valid even if none of the above steps were taken.  Likewise, you could have done everything perfectly, and the courts could hold your will invalid.  The courts jealously guard their powers of discretion.  However, by doing everything right as set out above, you reduce the chance of a successful challenge.  You can only ever control the controllable – and give your wishes the very best chance.

 


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In order for the wishes in a will to be carried out, the original needs to be produced to the Probate Registry.  But. Sometimes wills just get lost.  What happens if this has happened to a deceased loved one of yours?  It might have been thrown out in a big clear out, lost in a fire, or put in such a secure hiding place that people might not uncover the document for generations (in a safe, buried under a tree, at the end of the garden?)

There’s good news and bad news in these situations.  Starting with the good news: if you have strong enough evidence of the existence and contents of the last will it is possible to have the will honoured. The bad news is that when you make an application to court to do this the legal presumption is always that if a will can’t be found, then the testator destroyed it with the intention to revoke it.  You need some pretty serious evidence to overturn this presumption, but it is possible.

Messy office by JF Martin

Photo credit: JF Martin

The take home message should always be that if you can’t find an original will at first you should go to very long lengths to try to find it.  Finding the original will provide certainty, and also save a LOT of avoidable legal costs. If you’ve contacted the National Will Register and been through every single piece of paper in the house/ storage/ shed, searched under the floorboards/ behind kitchen counters/ emptied the attic, rotavated the garden lawn and dug up the flower beds, and you still can’t find the original it could be time for you to make an application to the Probate Registry under s54 of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987.

You can make an application under these rules where you either (a) have a photocopy of the will, or (b) have very strong evidence of what was contained in the original will (e.g. notes from meetings with solicitors, or notes etc).  As mentioned above, there’s a common law presumption that if a will can’t be found, it’s been destroyed by the testator with the intention to revoke it.

Your application will have to be supported by evidence of (1) how the original might have been lost (e.g. if the deceased had a habit of losing or throwing things away) (2) what you’ve done to try to find the original (see the notes above about searching in every nook and cranny), and (3) and some bona-fide evidence that the testator didn’t/ wouldn’t/ couldn’t have intended to revoke the will. This can be in the form of evidence showing that the testator continued to have a strong loving relationship with everyone who would have stood to benefit under the terms of the will.

If there are people who might have missed out because of the terms of the will (e.g. a child written out of the will, or a large charitable gift reducing the estate for the residuary beneficiaries) then the Probate Registry will give those people a chance to respond to the application.  If there is a contest then the application will be heard in court with evidence from the executors who have put the application together and those people who may lose out.  The courts will then decide whether the presumption that the testator destroyed the will with the intention to revoke it stands.  It is a tough one to overcome.

As you can see, getting the wishes expressed in a will carried out if the original can’t be found is an extremely laborious process.  The lesson in all cases should be to ensure that the original is well looked after so that these legal gymnastics aren’t necessary.  The National Will Safe provide an excellent storage solution and also register each will with the National Wills Register.  Failing that: ensure that you keep the will somewhere that is safe and secure, and also ensure that all of the executors know exactly where to find it.


If you are a citizen of the world you’ll have had the opportunity to sample different cultures, environments and languages.  You’ll also have dabbled in the legal systems: whether it be getting a property to live in, applying the local rules and conventions on the road or knowing what documents you really shouldn’t leave your home without.  As an expat you can make an expat will but there are other things you should always consider.

You might not have thought about what could happen to your property, commercial interests and bank accounts across the world.  Different countries that on the surface appear very similar can have vastly different systems when it comes to inheritance.  France and the UK make a good juxtaposition, with the UK have great freedom on who you can leave your estate to but in France at least 75% of your inheritance is predetermined whether or not you have a will.

Ben White - person with globe

Photo credit: Ben White

This leaves a confusing situation in which local laws, your citizenship and your domicile all come into play.  When making a will when you have interests in multiple jurisdictions you should always ensure you seek the advice of local experts in each of the jurisdictions where you hold assets.  A list of sources of local lawyers in the countries with most British expats can be found in our list of local experts for expat wills.

The dangers for your estate and your beneficiaries range from the risk of double (or sometimes triple or more) taxation on your estate through to your wishes being held to be unenforceable.  When making a will, you need the peace of mind that the wishes you set out can be enforced.

Things to consider are: the Convention on the Conflicts of Laws relating to Testementary Dispositions from 1961 (commonly known as “the Hague Convention of 1961”), “forced heirship” which applies in many European and Islamic countries, and rules around your domicile and residency.

The take home message from this post should be that it is imperative that you seek advice from a specialist in every country where you have a financial or personal interest to make sure there aren’t any problems in the future.

 


In this tragic case John Scarle and Anne Scarle were found dead from hypothermia by police in their home in 2016.  Police were alerted to their absence by neighbours and by the time they were found in their home they had been dead for some time (perhaps more than a week).  At the time of their deaths John was 79 and Anne was 69… and so the story begins.

The plot thickened after their deaths when their estates went through the process of administration.  Both John and Anne had children from previous relationships.  Neither Anne nor John had a will and the rules of intestacy dictate that an estate passes to a surviving spouse, and if none, to the deceased’s children.  So, I hear you think: they both died, so their estate should be shared. 

If only that were the case.

What actually happened was a complex legal wrangle.  If John died first, then everything would have passed to Anne (however briefly), and then onto Anne’s children.  Likewise if Anne died first, everything would end up with John (briefly) and then John’s children. The stakes for the children were high (John and Anne’s house was worth £280,000).  The writer is not privy to the discussions between the children (Anna, John’s daughter and Deborah, Anne’s daughter) but somehow this case ended up in the High Court.

Chris Sabor - Herons Fighting

Photo Credit: Chris Sabor

The facts and the law in the case appear to be at odds with almost impossible asks being made of everyone involved (police, courts etc).  Basically, it boils down to:

(1) a presumption at law (Law of Property Act 1925 s184) when two people die together (or within a short space of one another) the elder is deemed to have passed first (i.e. John); versus

(2) some evidence gathered by the police that it seemed that Anne may have been dead for longer when they found the bodies.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the tragedy of the deceased couple, the handling of the aftermath or the law, one thing rings clear and true: the outcome is not as the deceased would have wanted it. Legal fees alone will account for a significant proportion of the money left by Anne and John in their home.  Presumably they were frugal throughout their lives (and into their deaths) so this waste of their life savings is a terrible pity. The publicity around this case will have negative effects on both of the daughters: Deborah and Anna.

Where there’s a will there’s a way…

All of the issues faced by the family could have been avoided if Mr & Mrs Scarle had taken legal advice and made a will.  The standard wills at makeawillonline.co.uk account for what should happen if people die at the same time (or within a few days of each other).  It is a type of clause known as a “commorientes” clause. This stops a multitude of problems and ensures that your wishes can be carried out – and in some estates, mitigates against inheritance tax.

The take home message from this is: take half an hour.  Make a will.  Make sure that you don’t end up like John and Anne’s poor daughters: locked in a legal battle where everyone is the loser.


When you’ve got kids there’s a LOT to do: keep them clean and healthy, keep them on the straight and narrow and preserve your own sanity.  The lure of life admin and paperwork may be very easy to resist compared to the new box set on Netflix when 9pm comes around and all is quiet in the house.  


The good news is that if you’re a parent of young children then, statistically, you’re likely to have a good few years ahead of you. But: it’s always worth having a will in place “just in case”.  The pain of making a will lasts about fifteen minutes to half an hour.  The peace of mind that goes with it stays with you for years. 

The main five reasons for parents of young families to make a will are:

1. Make sure your children know you thought about them.

When a child loses a parent it leaves a lot of questions.  One place that a child can see that their parent had them in their thoughts is in a will.  Even if you’re leaving everything to your partner or spouse you will still likely mention children in the will (e.g. who you would leave your estate to if your partner/ spouse died before you). 

Often there is something special that you want to go straight to a particular child: grandparents' war medals or a wedding ring. You can give any item you own like this and you will ensure that an heirloom is passed as you want it. 

Mother and Daughter at sunset
Photo credit - Chema Photo

2. Make sure everything is dealt with fairly.

If you don’t make a will your estate will be dealt with in accordance with the “rules of intestacy". These are blind to what may have happened before. Your whole estate will go to spouse and children (or parents/ siblings/ other family if none) and will be blind to any special wishes you may have had. Sometimes, for example, one child may have inherited something directly from a grandparent, but the other (often the younger) did not. 

By writing a will you can make right any problems like this from the past that could breed resentment in the future. When you do this you can also leave a note with the will explaining exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing so that no child will harbour jealousies into the future. Without a will you could not address these potential future issues. 

3. Deal with complicated family circumstances.

Let’s face it: for a lot of us life hasn’t always been “vanilla" for us or our family. Complications can arise following divorce and remarriage, step siblings, or old fashioned family disputes. 

Picture this: you marry a partner with children and have more children together. Without a will your estate would likely pass to your new spouse, then be split equally between all of their children. Perhaps this would be fair, but perhaps, if you brought more wealth to the partnership, or if your spouse's other children stand to inherit more in the future (from their other biological parent) then the intestacy rules would disadvantage your own child. 

Writing a will would avoid the upset and resentment that this could cause. 
In June of 2019 a tragic example of the dangers of not having a will came to light in the English courts. 

4. Provide gifts that will go to your children when they reach a certain age;

If you die and your children inherit (which can happen if you are divorced or don’t have a will) then your
children will inherit as soon as they reach 18. Some 18 year olds are very responsible but others aren’t: and who’s to say which yours will be without your stabilising influence. 

By making a will you can specify the age that you want your children to inherit. 21, 25 or even 30. The better we understand the development of the human brain, the more we realise that true "adulthood" (when the brain is fully developed and we can control our impulses) might not start until the late 20s or early 30s. 

A pause of a few years could be the difference between your worldly wealth being used by your child on an extravagant and expensive extended adolescence or building a stable home and future. 

A will is the best way to increase the likelihood of the second outcome. 

5. Remember other family members who might otherwise miss out.

Looking away from your children for a second: there are lots of others in your life. You may wish to remember your parents in your will, or a dear friend or perhaps a charity that is close to your heart. Your will is your final chance to remember those you love. 

Gifts in wills are activated by your death but are inspired by your fondness, affection and love whilst you are alive.

 


Pets and Gifts in Wills.


Posted on 03 June 2019


So: you own a pet.

What happens to your pet when you die?

Well: hopefully he or she will live a long and happy life when you’ve gone.  Read on to see how you can make the best arrangements for him or her when you aren’t around. 

If you make no other arrangements and don’t put anything in your will the following three things could happen:

Woman on computer making will online and dog by Bruno Cervera

Photo credit: Bruno Cervera

(1) if you own the pet with someone else (spouse/ partner/ housemate) then they may carry on caring once you’re gone.  

(2) a friend or family member may volunteer and your executors might agree.

(3) there are lots of organisations that find loving homes for your animal companions when you’re no longer able to however, many of these organisations won’t look after an animal forever.  Many animals are euphemistically “destroyed” if they cannot be rehomed.

Rather than leaving it to chance, why not create some certainty?  Animals can be “gifted” in your will.  If you know someone who would be able and willing to look after your pet once you’ve died why not have a word with them now and ask if it’s okay for you to make it a formal arrangement?  You can make a will in a few minutes and specify where you want your four legged (/flippered/ winged) companion to live when you die.

You could also specify what animal shelter you want your animal passed to if your friend for whatever reason can’t do it (e.g. they move, die before you, or are otherwise incapacitated). 

In either case you may wish to provide a cash gift that follows your companion animal to cover vet bills, food costs and other out of pocket expenses.  This can be made conditional on your friend/ charitable organisation accepting the animal.  You will have the peace of mind that (a) you have control over the fate of your pet and (b) the person or organisation looking after your pet won’t be burdened by doing right by your pet.

If you do have gifts of pets in your will you should ensure that your wishes are up to date.  Each time you get a new pet you should provide as much information about it as possible including name/ species and breed/ unique identifying features and if you have it to hand: microchip information.  With our Lifetime Updates subscription you can update your will up to five times per year for just £10.  

As a final thought: did you know that you can leave gifts in your will to your favourite charities?  This can be to animal shelters to ensure that other animals don’t need to be destroyed before their time, or to any other charity you like – be they environmental, care, medical research etc.  You can find a list of all charities in England and Wales through the Charity Commission website here: https://www.gov.uk/find-charity-information.

 

 

Pets and Gifts in Wills.

 

So: you own a pet.

What happens to your pet when you die?

Well: hopefully he or she will live a long and happy life when you’ve gone.  Read on to see how you can make the best arrangements for him or her when you aren’t around. 

If you make no other arrangements and don’t put anything in your will the following three things could happen:

(1) if you own the pet with someone else (spouse/ partner/ housemate) then they are likely to carry on caring once you’re gone.  

(2) a friend or family member may volunteer.

(3) there are lots of organisations that find loving homes for your animal companions when you’re no longer able to however, many of these organisations won’t look after an animal forever.  Many animals are euphemistically “destroyed” if they cannot be rehomed.

Rather than leaving it to chance, why not create some certainty?  Animals can be “gifted” in your will.  If you know someone who would be able and willing to look after your pet once you’ve died why not have a word with them now and ask if it’s okay for you to make it a formal arrangement?  You can make a will in a few minutes and specify where you want your four legged (/flippered/ winged) companion to live when you die.

You could also specify what animal shelter you want your animal passed to if your friend for whatever reason can’t do it (e.g. they move, die before you, or are otherwise incapacitated). 

In either case you may wish to provide a cash gift that follows your companion animal to cover vet bills, food costs and other out of pocket expenses.  This can be made conditional on your friend/ charitable organisation accepting the animal.  You will have the peace of mind that (a) you have control over the fate of your pet and (b) the person or organisation looking after your pet won’t be burdened by doing right by your pet.

If you do have gifts of pets in your will you should ensure that your wishes are up to date.  Each time you get a new pet you should provide as much information about it as possible including name/ species and breed/ unique identifying features and if you have it to hand: microchip information.  With our Lifetime Updates subscription you can update your will up to five times per year for just £10.  

As a final thought: did you know that you can leave gifts in your will to your favourite charities?  This can be to animal shelters to ensure that other animals don’t need to be destroyed before their time, or to any other charity you like – be they environmental, care, medical research etc.  You can find a list of all charities in England and Wales through the Charity Commission website here: https://www.gov.uk/find-charity-information.

 

Pets and Gifts in Wills.

 

So: you own a pet.

What happens to your pet when you die?

Well: hopefully he or she will live a long and happy life when you’ve gone.  Read on to see how you can make the best arrangements for him or her when you aren’t around. 

If you make no other arrangements and don’t put anything in your will the following three things could happen:

(1) if you own the pet with someone else (spouse/ partner/ housemate) then they are likely to carry on caring once you’re gone.  

(2) a friend or family member may volunteer.

(3) there are lots of organisations that find loving homes for your animal companions when you’re no longer able to however, many of these organisations won’t look after an animal forever.  Many animals are euphemistically “destroyed” if they cannot be rehomed.

Rather than leaving it to chance, why not create some certainty?  Animals can be “gifted” in your will.  If you know someone who would be able and willing to look after your pet once you’ve died why not have a word with them now and ask if it’s okay for you to make it a formal arrangement?  You can make a will in a few minutes and specify where you want your four legged (/flippered/ winged) companion to live when you die.

You could also specify what animal shelter you want your animal passed to if your friend for whatever reason can’t do it (e.g. they move, die before you, or are otherwise incapacitated). 

In either case you may wish to provide a cash gift that follows your companion animal to cover vet bills, food costs and other out of pocket expenses.  This can be made conditional on your friend/ charitable organisation accepting the animal.  You will have the peace of mind that (a) you have control over the fate of your pet and (b) the person or organisation looking after your pet won’t be burdened by doing right by your pet.

If you do have gifts of pets in your will you should ensure that your wishes are up to date.  Each time you get a new pet you should provide as much information about it as possible including name/ species and breed/ unique identifying features and if you have it to hand: microchip information.  With our Lifetime Updates subscription you can update your will up to five times per year for just £10.  

As a final thought: did you know that you can leave gifts in your will to your favourite charities?  This can be to animal shelters to ensure that other animals don’t need to be destroyed before their time, or to any other charity you like – be they environmental, care, medical research etc.  You can find a list of all charities in England and Wales through the Charity Commission website here: https://www.gov.uk/find-charity-information.

 


People can get written out of wills for all sorts of reasons.  This post will look at some of the better and worse ways of doing it – using the example of the Game of Thrones Tarly family.  With a spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen the later series’ of GoT!

The bombastic warlord Lord Randyll Tarly made no secret of his disappointment with his son and stated on multiple occasions that he wanted no part of his estate to go to the bookish Samwell.  His preferences were made clear when he said he wanted his other son Dickon to be his heir.

So: what might have happened when both Randyll and Dickon met a toasty end ahead of their time?

No will

If Randyll didn’t make a will then his estate would be split in accordance with the rules of intestacy.  This means that Randyll’s widow Melissa would inherit the first £250,000 and the remainder of the estate would be split between all of the living children.  That would be Samwell and Talla.  This could lead Samwell with a considerable amount of the late Lord Tarly’s wealth and his title.  Definitely not what Randyll would have wanted.

Samwell Tarly - ertacaltinoz on deviantart

Credit: ertacaltinoz on deviantart

To make matters worse (or better, depending on your perspective) Melissa would then have the right to make her will and choose where she would want her wealth to go when she died.  She would (hopefully) be more even handed and Samwell could stand to inherit further.  Fair, but it would leave Randyll spinning in his grave (if there was enough of him left to bury)!

Will with a gift of everything to Dickon

Bearing in mind Randyll’s age and high-risk pastimes (slaying/ hunting/ warmongering) it’s likely that he would have made a will.  On the assumption that as well as disliking bookish children he’s also a bit of a chauvinist we’re going to assume that he may have made a will leaving everything to Dickon  his favoured son and excluding his wife and daughter.

The problem for Randyll with this is that Dickon took the same toasting as him and died at the same time or momentarily before.  So – with no Randyll and no Dickon, this leaves us in the same situation as above.  The end result being that Samwell, Melissa and Talla inherit.  Again: NOT what Randyll would have wanted.

Will with a mention (1%) to Samwell

So: on the basis that not mentioning Samwell at all could lead to Samwell inheriting, and not making a will could also lead to Samwell inheriting Lord Tarly may have made a point by leaving Dickon 99% of the estate and Samwell 1%.  Sorted?  Right?

Actually: no.  As Dickon died before/ at the same time as the late Lord Randyll and Dickon has no children, then his share of any bequest from Randyll to Dickon would go to the other named beneficiaries under the will.  In this case, Samwell.  Samwell’s 1% would effectively increase his share  to 100%.  Worse still than above two options.

Gift of last resort

Randyll is running out of options here: each of: (a) no will, (b) 100% gift to Dickon, and (c) a small gift to Samwell would lead to Samwell inheriting.  One way of stopping your estate from going somewhere you don’t intend is to provide a “gift of last resort”.  If the people mentioned in your will die before you and you don’t update your will you can be left in a situation where either (a) the rules of intestacy are followed or (b) your estate goes to the Crown (i.e. the government). 

If you don’t want this to happen you can make gift that sweeps up anything that is left.  Gifts of this kind are often to charity and makeawillonline.co.uk actually provides a prompt to do this.  A gift to a charity is effective because most larger charities have been around for a long time and will continue to exist for a long time following the demise of the will writer.

If Lord Tarly had provided for a gift of last resort to the a charity, for example: the Widows and Orphans of the Battle of Blackwater Foundation or the Church of the Mother’s Dawnish Outreach Trust, then when he and Dickon died, the remainder of his estate would have passed directly to the charity.  This would have left Melissa and Talla very much in the lurch and requiring a claim under the Care for Dependents Act (the subject for another blog).

In conclusion….

On the basis that Samwell and Gilly seem to be on their way down south back to the family ranch at Horn Hill with Samwell appearing every bit the Lord: we can guess that despite his fame and fortune: Lord Tarly didn’t set his affairs in order.  Much to his chagrin (and our delight) Samwell seems to be on his way to a “happily ever after” situation back at the family seat with Gilly. Although: this is Game of Thrones and (at the time of writing) we are only half way through the last season…

 


Research now shows that cohabiting is the fastest growing family type in the UK (here).  It affords the companionship of official family structures (marriage/ civil partnership) and the bond is as strong as the love between the partners.  As Jodi Mitchell put it: “we don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall”.

However not all love is equal in the eyes of the law and cohabiting couples face legislative discrimination.  Despite what people may think there is no such thing as a “common law husband/ wife”.  There have been promises of review by the Law Commission for decades now but nothing has yet come of it.

This blog explores some of the inequalities between common-law relationships and marriage/ civil-partnerships and discusses some steps cohabitees can consider to protect their partners.

Couple making heart with hands

Credit: Kristina Litvjak

Property:

If a property is in the sole name of one of the cohabitees the remaining partner has no automatic legal right to inherit or even to stay in the family home if the legal owner dies.  In the absence of a will the property will follow the rules of intestacy in which case the property may end up being owned by the deceased’s children, or Long Lost Cousin Bertie – who may or may not consent to the bereaved cohabitee staying in their home. 

This can be the case even where the bereaved partner has been a homekeeper and invested significant time and resource making and keeping the home for decades.  This heartbreaking problem is, in a large part, what inspired the creation of the makeawillonline.co.uk service.

Cash in the bank:

There are all sorts of reasons why the bulk of a couple’s cash might be in an account with only the deceased’s name on it.  Similar to the above: this comes with all sorts of risks to the bereaved partner.  In the absence of an “official” family structure the bereaved will have no access to cash, and worse still: the rules of intestacy may apply leaving the bereaved with no savings or financial security.

Death and taxes:

Where a couple is married or in a civil partnership the taxman allows a transfer of the deceased tax “Nil Rate Band” (currently £325k plus an additional sum for the main residence – see here for details).  Where a couple is cohabiting they do not enjoy this benefit.  This means that the surviving, bereaved partner is more likely to have to pay a considerable amount of money (up to 40%) just to keep what has been left to them.

Likewise: any gifts from the deceased to the surviving cohabitee given in the seven years prior to the deceased’s death could be liable for inheritance tax – something that would be mitigated if the couple were married or in a civil partnership. 

Any solutions?

Aside from putting scepticism about “official” relationships aside and one cohabitee “popping the question” and the other agreeing (hint: if you’re asking – don’t lead with a preamble about tax!) there are practical and legal steps that can be taken:

1. Make a will.  Set out what you want to happen to any property that you own or live in.  You can specify whether you want your partner to take ownership of any cohabited property or retain a right to live there for as long as they want/ can before it passing to others (e.g. children or family).  Likewise, you can deal with other money and assets.  You can make a will here.

2. Set your finances in order.  Make sure shared money is in an appropriate account and speak to your financial advisor/ insurer/ bank about life insurance, pensions, other investments.

3. Ensure the property is held as you want it to be.  Do you own the property together?  Speak to your solicitor about holding as “tenants in common” or “joint tenants” to ensure that what you expect to happen actually happens when one of you passes away.  If you are “tenants in common” you can get a trust deed setting out what arrangements should take place if you sell/ split/ pass away.

4. Enter into a “cohabitation agreement”.  This can set out how you deal with your assets during the relationship and at the end of it.  It’s better to agree what should happen to money/ children/ property before the arguments start.  You can speak to a specialist family solicitor about this.  A list of solicitors can be found on the Law Society website.

 

 

 


Gifts in wills are worth over £2.8 billion each year to UK charities.  This figure is growing. 36% of the general public said they would like leave a gift in their will to charity.  Only 6% of them actually do so.  We want to help you and your supporters by making it easier for supporters to give.  

Charities of all sizes use makeawillonline.co.uk’s solicitor checked wills service to generate and monitor valuable gifts in wills.  Your supporters can easily make a will and leave you a gift.  You get monthly reports with detailed analysis of pledged gifts.

Graph showing stats

What we offer you:

  • Inclusive reports with valuable info: how much, and when money is pledged
  • Professional will-writing service for supporters, available 24/7/365
  • Every will checked by an experienced solicitor – you pay only £29.50 per will

Easy to give, easy to see:

Story about Okello and Tessie leaving a gift in their will and Paloma the legacy officer tracking that gift automatically

See https://makeawillonline.co.uk/legacy-fundraising-online-wills for more info.

Key points:

  • Pay £29.50 only when a will is completed. A typical gift can be £5,000-£15,000.
  • No additional fees for tracking and analytics.
  • Offer your supporters a free, low hassle, solicitor checked will writing service.
  • Industry leading online will-writing service with £2m professional indemnity, developed by experienced will writers, solicitors and barristers.

A tale of two supporters - turning intentions into gifts:

Story of Jaymin not leaving a gift in his will and Paloma managing to do so

How it works – no setup costs, no minimum spend, you only pay for wills made:

  1. We create a personalised page on makeawillonline.co.uk especially for your charity. The web address will look like: makeawillonline.co.uk/yourcharity;
  2. Using this page, your supporters complete our simple, confidential online will-writing process, there are multiple prompts throughout to leave a gift to your charity;
  3. After being completed, the will is checked by one of our solicitors and a copy of the will is sent to your supporter.  Details of the gift (including when and how much) will be accurately tracked;
  4. Your supporter is not charged for the will but they will be invited to donate a cash sum to your charity (e.g. via justgiving) to cover the cost of the will;
  5. At the end of the month we automatically send a report showing all activity and we invoice only the cost of the wills produced: £29.50 per will.  

The process is transparent and represents excellent value for your charity.  It is compliant with the Fundraising Regulator’s rules. You pay no set up or subscription fees and only pay us a small fee per will when a supporter makes a will.   

To find out more, see https://makeawillonline.co.uk/legacy-fundraising-online-wills or contact Oliver Asha: oliver [at] makeawillonline.co.uk or call 020 7193 2747

 

 

A tale of two supporters – turning intentions into gifts: 


We’ve researched the most common reasons people update their wills to mark the launch of our “Lifetime Updates” service.  You can update your will forever for just £10 per year. Top reasons are:

1. Marriage:

It’s more than just “a piece of paper from the City Hall” as Jodi Mitchell puts it.  Marriage has wide ranging legal implications.  One of those is about inheritance.  When you marry, previous wills are revoked and it’s assumed that your spouse will inherit everything.  Whether or not this is what you want, it’s always a good idea to have your wishes clarified to avoid potential conflict and upset in the future. 

Divorce doesn’t have quite as wide reaching effect, but it will be assumed that any gifts to them in your will are revoked.  Again, whether or not it’s your intention: it’s best to clarify this legally.

Couple in front of tree

Photo by Matheus Ferrero

2. Births:

Be it a child, grandchild, or another important addition to your family you should consider updating your will.  If your current will names who you want to inherit (rather than just referring to person X’s “children”) then a new baby may not inherit when the time comes.  During this exciting period there’s a lot to think about but forgetting to update your will could lead to confusion and upset years down the line.

3. Deaths:

When you suffer a close bereavement it’s understandable that more paperwork might be the last thing you want to do.  However, if you have a gift dedicated to the deceased that gift could either go to their children or be divided between surviving beneficiaries.  You need to think about which of these you want to happen, or whether you want to set out entirely new wishes.  It’s a time to take stock and consider what and who is important to you.

Text with word "Gifting" picked out

Photo by JS Romeo

4. Charity:

Across the UK more people are choosing to leave a gift to charity.  Gifts in wills are incredibly valuable to the work of UK charities.  Many charities come right out and say that they couldn’t do what they do without them.  If there is a cause particularly dear to you that you would like to remember along with your family and friends a gift in your will can achieve this.  You can pledge either a cash sum or a percentage of your estate (usually between 1% and 10%).  If you want your friends and family to leave a gift to that charity instead of bringing flowers to the funeral you ask them to do this in your will too.

5. Because you want to:

Possibly the most important reason to change your will is because you feel that it’s the right thing to do.  You don’t need any major life changes.  Life is fluid, and your wishes are your own.  You should therefore be able to exercise your legal right without impediment when you please.

Lifetime updates: only £10 per year – first year FREE:

We believe that everyone should have the peace of mind knowing they have the will they want.  We have been leading the way on quality, price and convenience for over ten years.  For just £10 per year, customers can subscribe to our Lifetime Updates service and have 24/7/365 access to updated legal documents and customers can call or email our helplines and speak to a solicitor.

The cost of an average experienced family solicitor is between £170 to £250 per hour (plus VAT).  That means that a ten-minute phone call to check a simple point can cost upwards of £50.  Many people will avoid this and carry on without receiving the right advice. 

Our vision is that every person and their loved ones should have the peace of mind of knowing that they’ve made a fully legal will setting out their wishes.  This extends to knowing that they’ve had the right legal advice and made the best, up-to-date will, taking into consideration life events and your changing needs. 

 


The problem

We studied tech trends and access to legal services in the UK.  This article examines a task every adult should undertake: making a will.  The rise of the internet and legal tech has made it easier than ever to access legal services.  However, changing tech trends have it harder to get a “hard copy” of legal documents. 

This article sets out a key problem that consumers are likely to face when making a will, and describes the actions that makeawillonline has taken to remedy this.

Old Law

Despite the change in technology a lot of laws still require a document to be printed and signed such as sale of property, wills, and powers of attorney.  The Wills Act 1837 requires wills to be in hard copy, signed, and witnessed.  Back in 1837 there was no accounting for digital verification, blockchain, virtual copies or any of the other tech that law and commerce are increasingly relying on.  A will therefore has to be on paper and signed.  Whilst there are consultations around updating these ancient laws, nothing has yet been done by parliament. 

Photo: Dustin Lee


Old Tech

Remember the ‘90s: breezeblock-sized monitors and serpentine knot of cables exiting the back of your PC?  One of those invariably led to a printer.  Since then, tech changed: monitors are wafer-thin, tablets have taken the place of desktops, and printer costs and environmental awareness has reduced the popularity of print. 

The growth in the use of mobile devices has made it easier than ever to access to the internet.  Printers are becoming a thing of the past.  HP: the world’s biggest printer manufacturer is having a wholesale change of strategy.  The presence of a printer in a home is no longer a given. 

This means that despite an unparalleled access to legal advice and legal services, consumers can be left with a will but no way to make the will legal.  This issue is especially acute for people without access to work printers, libraries or internet cafes.  These include those living rurally, people with mobility impairments, or just people who don’t have the time to fit a trip to the library or interne cafe into their schedule.

No printer, no problem:

Continuing in our quest to make sure that the peace of mind of having a will is available to all, we have launched out our “Print & Send” service.  For just £9.50 you can have a professionally bound fully legal will printed on high grade paper and securely sent to your door. 

We have also paired up with the National Will Safe and the National Will Register so that if you get your will printed, you can have it stored professionally and noted on the national register.  You can rest easy in the knowledge that your will is safe, secure and discoverable.

 


There may be trouble ahead…

Are you a UK citizen living in Europe, or an EU citizen with assets in the UK?  At the time of writing, nobody knows what’s going to happen post Brexit.  There are certain things that everyone should do though, Brexit or no Brexit. Ensure you have up-to-date insurance, keep an eye on currencies and currency fluctuations, and make a will to cover your assets in England & Wales.

Post-Brexit there could be hidden snags and costs to your estate.  The position around taxation of your UK and non-UK estate following death if you are resident in another EU country is currently dealt with in accordance with EU rules, with some exceptions (see here for more).

Post Brexit, be it No-Deal, May’s Deal, Soft Brexit, transitional arrangements, or some unholy mixture: these rules could all go up in the air.

Man paddleboarding with dog

image credit: Alex Blăjan

 

Accessing services across borders could become problematic too.  Currently the freedom to provide services means that it is relatively simple to access UK legal advice (link).  Post Brexit, the situation could change with barriers or tariffs making it harder or more expensive to access this.  Due to the unique nature of English law, it will be difficult to find a suitably qualified practitioner in another member state following Brexit.

Check the law where you live:

If you make an English and Welsh will and you live in another country you need to take legal advice from a specialist in your current jurisdiction first. Whilst our service does not stretch to international advice we can safely say that having an international estate carries legal risks and financial risks. 

Legal risks include the fact that different countries can have different rules about what you can and can’t leave to your relatives and loved ones.  There may be specific wording you need in your home will or your English will depending on where you live.  A practitioner specialising in the relevant law can give you advice as to what to include.

Financial risks relate to administration and tax.  For example the risks of double-taxation (i.e. paying inheritance tax in two or more jurisdictions) are currently mitigated by the EU rules.  However, post-Brexit the rules could change causing increased uncertainty and risk.

So to summarise: you need to speak to a local specialist in private client, estate planning and international estates and make the necessary arrangements which might include making a will in each jurisdiction.

Next steps:

Many people who own property or assets in the UK are choosing to sell these and find another jurisdiction to invest.  The current uncertainty surrounding the value of the pound, ease of trading within the UK, and fluctuations of property prices feed into this decision.  However, bear in mind that selling property in the UK can take a long time, often three to six months from the time that a purchase has been agreed.  This could take you beyond the date of Brexit!

You might choose to take a longer 5-10 year view and hold onto these assets.  Whilst property values might stabilise during this time, access to services such as lawyers might not.  Making a will whilst services are accessible and prices competitive has never been a better idea.  Doing it online is a convenient and inexpensive option.

Whatever your investment choices, having a will setting out precisely what you want to happen to your estate is always a sensible option.  It’s never too early but it can be too late.  Last year, 60% of people in the UK died without a will.  The administration costs in these cases are more and it takes longer.

A single will costs £29.50 and a pair of wills costs £39.50. Once you’ve taken advice from a local legal specialist on the international aspect of your estate the process of making an English will can take as little as 15 minutes here.


Younger people who are single, without children and do not consider themselves to be wealthy often think that there is no reason to make a will.  Wills do more than just divvy out your money and “stuff”.  Now it’s quicker, cheaper and easier than ever to make a will.  These 10 reasons why you should make a will in your 20s are a real eye-opener: 

  1. Remember your friends.  Look around your room.  There’s stuff in every cupboard, bookcase and chest of drawers.  Some of that “stuff” would make a life-long memento for your closest friends or family.  If you don’t tell anyone, it could all end up in a charity shop or down the dump.
  2. Your inheritance.  You may not have yet lost a parent or grandparent, but it could happen. You might find yourself suddenly with unexpected wealth.  You’ll probably be thinking of your loss rather than making a will when this happens.  You can say right now what you want to happen to money when you die (go to family, friends or charity) even if you haven’t received it yet.
  3. Pets.  Your will can say what you want to happen to your fluffy companions when you pass. This could also avoid arguments between family and friends about who should look after your pets when you’re gone.

    two surfers at sunset

  4. It’s your funeral.  Your will is the best place to say what you want to happen after you go.  Do you want a solemn affair, or a festival of colour?  Any songs you want (or absolutely don’t want) on your final journey?  Without instructions it’ll be the best guess of your parents/ friends/ the funeral director.  They may not realise that you want to go out bopping to Pharrell Williams or rocking to Metallica. 
  5. Your crush/partner.  Even if you’re not married there may be some stuff you want your romantic interest(s) to have to remember you.  Remember: if you don’t have a will it’ll be your family who decide what goes where. They may not even know the person you’ve fallen for.  You can stick something in your will for them (but remember that love is a fickle thing, so don’t forget to update your will if the romance is more “sputter” than “vroom”).
  6. For charity.  More and more people leave a gift to a charity.  Without instructions in your will the charity won’t get anything from you.  Stick a gift in your will and your charity will be remembered when you’re gone. You can give a cash gift or a percentage of everything.  If you want a collection for the charity at your funeral: don’t forget to say so!
  7. Provide for younger family members.  If you don’t make a will and your parents are still around, the chances are that they will inherit everything. You might have some cash stashed somewhere that you’ve saved or from an inheritance.  You may feel that it would be better going straight to younger family members: siblings, cousins, nephews, nieces etc. 
  8. Digital assets.  Over time you may have accumulated digital “stuff” such as photos, music, social media accounts, or other “intellectual property”.  It might not seem like much but it might mean a lot to certain people.  You can say what you want to happen to these when you die.
  9. Property.  If you are lucky enough to have bought a home, you need to say what you want to happen to it.  If you co-own: depending on how you own the property, you might be surprised where the property ends up.  Your share of the property may end up going to your parents/ family rather than the co-owner when you want the opposite to happen (or vice versa). 
  10. Choose who deals with the paperwork after your death.  Dying often requires LOTS of paperwork for those left behind. Without a will, this burden lies with your closest living relative. This could be your parents.  They might not relish dealing with the reams of paperwork required: they’d have just lost their child, remember.  And if you die in a few years, they might be old and infirm themselves.  There might be someone who would be a better choice to deal with this burden.  A sibling/ friend/ professional firm of solicitors or accountants. 

Nowadays you can make a will online in 15 minutes for £29.50 for one will or £39.50 for a pair of wills.  This will give you peace of mind for you and your loved ones.


More than half of the adults in the UK don’t have a will: leading to family heartbreak, arguments, and extra costs. With new probate fees of up to £6,000 imminent in April 2019 estate planning has never been more important.

Legal Tech firm makeawillonline.co.uk breaks down barriers for access to top quality legal advice.  Qualified solicitors are on tap for customers making affordable online wills.  Solicitor-checked wills represent a new level of quality, affordability and peace of mind for customers and their loved ones.

Solicitors represent the “gold standard” for legal advice in the UK.  Previously, solicitors could only provide advice through a Solicitor’s Firm, meaning clients had to book appointments (usually in person), and incur bills to write a will: often of many hundreds of pounds. 

Makeawillonline.co.uk has set the standard for online wills since it launched ten years ago.  This month the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) approved a scheme to allow makeawillonline.co.uk to hire qualified Solicitors to check wills made by its customers.  It joins a select handful of businesses in the UK allowed to offer the services of its solicitors to the public.  It is the only one to specialise in making online wills.

Director Alex Hammond says: “We’re delighted to break down the barriers to quality legal advice for the public.  We set up ten years ago to make sure nobody need die without a will.  The SRA recognises quality of service we already provide.  Now our customers have the peace of mind that their wills are checked by a solicitor.  All our customers have the highest quality advice and support on tap.

Makeawillonline.co.uk’s first solicitor Oliver Asha says: “All solicitors benefit from intense training: at university, law school, as a trainee solicitor and extensive post qualification training.  Bringing this to the public via an easy to use online platform is a truly ground-breaking innovation.  We are looking forward to a new era of innovation and democratising legal services.”

Note to editors:

Founded in 2008, makeawillonline.co.uk is one of the UK’s longest established online will-writing services. Parent company Digilegal Ltd wants to democratise legal services by ensuring that everyone in England and Wales who needs a last will and testament has access to an affordable wills service, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

 

 


Short answer: probably

Divorce or dissolution of civil partnership does not automatically revoke your will like getting married does. If you divorce or dissolve your civil partnership after your will is made, any reference to your former spouse or civil partner will be treated as if he or she had died on the day that the decree absolute or final dissolution order was made. You should seek legal advice in those circumstances.

If you are still married or in a civil partnership with the other person, unless you want your estate to pass to the person from whom you are separated, a new will is the only way to ensure your wishes are fulfilled. Here are two examples:

Without a will

Bob and Julie have been married for five years and have two children. Julie leaves Bob and the children and moves in with Terry. Bob has not yet started divorce proceedings when he dies without a legally valid last will and testament.

Julie would still be first in line to inherit Jack’s money and property according to intestacy laws. Bob could have prevented this by writing and executing a will.

With an out-of-date will

Andy and Mark wrote mirror wills leaving everything to each other after entering a civil partnership. They have since separated and are living with other partners but have not re-written or revoked their wills.

Until the civil partnership is officially dissolved, the wills are still valid: Andy’s possessions would go to Mark and vice versa.

Keep your will up to date

It is important to update your will or create a new will whenever your circumstances chance, for example getting married or entering a civil partnership, getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership, or when you have children.


Legacy fundraising for charities


Posted on 02 July 2018


Gifts in wills are a major source of funding for UK charities, with more than £2 billion passed on by donors each year. But there is a gap between the number of people who say that they would like to leave a legacy to a charity and the number of gifts actually given. 

Almost a third of people surveyed said that they would like to leave a gift to a charity but only 6% of wills actually contain such a gift. This should provide charities with all the incentive they need to contact their supporters to ensure that supporters are given ample chance to provide their charity gifts.

Our online will service for charities helps connect fundraisers with their donors.

The benefits of an effective legacy fundraising campaign can be enormous.  In our experience, legacies typically amount to a few thousand pounds but the sky is the limit with gifts of hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions arriving as windfalls to a charity. 

People also often choose to leave a share of their estate to a charity or specify the charity as a “beneficiary of last resort” in the event that they are the last living member of their family.  These residuary gifts can be a significant proportion or even the whole of all of the worldly wealth a donor leaves behind.

Find out more about our service for charities here.


Short answer: probably

Your legal status changes upon marriage and any existing will is automatically cancelled (or "revoked") unless it specifically states otherwise. Most wills do not state otherwise, so you should be ready to make a new one as soon as possible after marrying or entering a civil partnership.

The months before your wedding can be hectic, with so much planning for the big day, but making a will should be on your list of "things to do" shortly after the event. If your existing will is revoked and you do not create a new one, your estate will be divided according to the government’s intestacy rules in the event of your death, and not according to your wishes.

It is important to update your will or create a new will whenever your circumstances change, for example getting married or entering a civil partnership, getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership, or when you have children. 

Find out more about pairs of wills and mirror wills.

 


Do married couples need two wills?


Posted on 01 November 2018


Married couples should have two wills to ensure that each individual’s wishes are fulfilled.

For example, if you personally own a watch that you would like your son or daughter to inherit, that should be covered by your individual will. In some cases, one spouse may not want the other to inherit a property in which the couple lives but is owned by an individual.

A will is a personal thing but if both partners have identical wishes, a mirror will is an option. In a mirror will, the content of both wills is nearly identical, except for the name of the testator. 

Making a pair of wills with makeawillonline.co.uk

Our great value will writing service allows you to make a pair of wills for just £39.50. 

Once you have completed your first will, you will have the chance to start a second one. You can either start a brand new will, following the same set of questions as before, or you can make a mirror will, which "mirrors" the wishes of the first will. 

The only new information you will need to enter for a mirror will is the name of the second testator (the person whose will it is) and any specific legacies, ie gifts that belong to the individual. Also, be sure to check any funerary wishes for each individual. 

With makeawillonline.co.uk, you can login and update your will for up to 30 days. (max 3 updated wills as each one is checked by our expert team)


Here are some things we have found interesting around the web recently:

dyingmatters.org – a sensible and well written site about death and dying

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11642250 – is our fear of dying – and of talking about it – costing us the death we want?

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2011/death-and-dying-in-eastern-england/

 


If you have been following the news over the last couple of years, you may be aware that there has been a debate about whether the will writing industry should be regulated, how this regulation would look and whether solicitors actually offer a better service than other will writers.

The process received attention after the BBC’s Panorama programme investigated some of the rogue practitioners operating within the industry. The programme was a welcome reminder that your last will and testament is an important legal document that should be drafted by someone you trust.

Deciding who you can trust can, of course, be a challenge. It can be particularly challenging if you are browsing online. That’s why, at makeawillonline.co.uk, we carry £1,000,000 professional liability insurance and are registered with the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) as Data Controllers. The insurance means that, in the very unlikely event that something should go wrong (in all the years we have been operating, this has never happened with one of our wills), you are covered. The data handling registration ensures that your private information stays private.

The Panorama programme highlighted a number of cases of unethical practice, for example where initial will-writing fees of £75-£100 escalated to thousands of pounds. In some cases, customers were unaware that the will writers were also selling estate administration services and naming themselves as executors. When private companies manage probate (distributing the estate), they often charge a percentage of the total estate as a fee. Across the industry, the mean cost of estate administration is £1,700 while 18% of work costs over £3,000.

At makeawillonline.co.uk, we DO NOT manage probate and DO NOT recommend any individual or service for this responsibility. Our role is to provide quality wills for an affordable price.

In the aftermath of the programme, the government asked The Legal Services Board (LSB) to investigate the will writing industry and to come up with suggestions for how will writing could be improved. At the start of 2013, the LSB presented its findings to the Lord Chancellor, who has the final say on matters of regulation.

The Lord Chancellor declined to make any changes to the existing system. As before, you do not need to visit a solicitor to write your will. As before, the responsibility remains with you to find the right service.

At makeawillonline.co.uk, we welcome this decision, with reservations.

The government is in the process of liberalising large parts of the legal services industry, making activities that were once restricted to solicitors available to a far wider range of legal services firms (including supermarkets). In this environment, it would have been strange of the Lord Chancellor to restrict a successful and diverse industry like ours, which more closely resembles the legal services marketplace the government wants to achieve. However, leaving the industry unregulated provides opportunities for unethical behaviour by rogue operators. The emphasis remains on you, the consumer, to find a service you trust.

We would welcome any regulation that ensures consumers are protected from rogue traders and, in the mean time, will continue to work hard providing a quality, fully legal service for the right price.

 


Wills and Probate Glossary


Posted on 13 December 2012


There are a number of words and phrases that you will often come across in the area of wills and probate. This article takes you through some of the most important ones.

Beneficiary:

Someone who receives anything from your will

Codicil:

A change to an existing will is made through adding a codicil.

Crown or Treasury:

The government. If you leave no surviving family and no instructions to the contrary, they get everything.

Estate:

Your possessions at the time of your death (less any outstanding debts).

Executors:

Less sinister than they sound! Executors are the people you choose to carry out your instructions.

Guardian:

A person with legal control or responsibility for a minor (i.e. a child under 18). You can designate Guardians in your will.

Inheritance Tax:

40% tax payable on all estates over a certain value (£325,000 in 2009-10). This can catch homeowners out, especially in and around London.

Intestate:

If you die without making a will, you are said to die ‘intestate’

Minor:

Anyone under the age of 18 (in English law)

Legacy:

A gift in a will. This can be a specified item (a Specific Legacy) or a gift of money (a Pecuniary Legacy)

Probate:

Grant of probate establishes that your executor(s) are legally authorised to manage and distribute your estate.

Residue or Residuary Estate:

What’s left of your estate after all specific gifts and expenses have been paid out

Residuary Beneficiary:

Someone who receives the residue of an estate, or part of it

Sound Mind:

To be ‘of sound mind’ means that the mind is reasonable and comes to a judgment upon ordinary subjects, like other rational men.

Testator:

Someone who makes a Will

Testatrix:

A female testator

Trust:

A trust is an arrangement under which a trustee or trustees hold and manage property for the benefit of another person or persons (the trust beneficiary or beneficiaries)

Trustee:

A person responsible for administering a trust.

Will:

A legal document which establishes the wishes of someone upon their death. Used to say who gets what from someone’s estate. Writing a will ensures that your possessions are distributed according to your wishes in the event of your death.

Witness:

A witness confirms that they saw the testator (or testatrix) sign the document and that he/she was of sound mind at the time of signing. To be legally valid, a will must have two witnesses.

 


You should make a will… but only once the ring is on your finger! This is because marriage automatically cancels any last will and testament unless that document specifies otherwise. Most wills do not specify otherwise.

This means that you will become intestate upon marriage and your estate will be divided according to the intestacy laws as administered by HMCS. The person with the first claim upon your property will be your new spouse or civil partner, followed by any biological or legally adopted children you have. The circumstances where this can present problems include a remarriage in later life, where you may want your possessions to go mainly to any biological children from an earlier marriage as opposed to your new spouse.

Whatever your marital circumstances, the only way to ensure that your possessions are divided according to your wishes in the event of your death is to have a valid last will and testament in place.

On makeawillonline.co.uk you can make a pair of wills for less than forty pounds: perfect for newlyweds who want peace of mind. Bear in mind that you should make a new will if you have children.

 


Our wills are only valid in England and Wales as they conform to English and Welsh law. They are not valid in Scotland. This is because there are a number of differences between probate law north and south of the border. For example, the idea of “moveable” estate, which includes and property that is not land or buildings, is important in Scottish probate law. The intestacy rules are also significantly different to those in England and Wales, giving family members specific rights.

If you have assets in, or live in, Scotland, we recommend that you visit a solicitor familiar with Scottish wills and probate law.

 


One thing you may want to consider when storing your will is the option of leaving your login details for online accounts in an informal letter that accompanies the will. It can be a messy and prolonged process for your family to gain access to any online accounts you hold, for example anything stored “in the cloud” such as emails and google docs, and social media sites.

If you don’t leave the login details, your family will have to contact the companies directly and many of them are not based in the UK, thus further complicating and delaying the process.

Some examples of websites where the logins can prove important are email accounts, gambling websites, music websites, stores where you have credit and any online services which you subscribe to.

However, leaving the login details as part of your will can cause problems. This is because your will is often effectively put into the public domain after your death, making your logins available to anyone who cares to enquire. For that reason, the logical thing to do is to store an informal letter containing the login information and passwords alongside your will, thus making them easy for your executors to find and act upon.

 


Unsurprising news from this year’s Standard Life Wills and Trusts Research Report – only 37% of UK adults have a last will and testament. This sinks to around 10% of people aged 35 to 44 and well below ten percent of people under 35. This means that the majority of UK adults will have no say at all in how their possessions are divided in the event of their death.

The widely-respected survey was carried out by YouGov and polled a sample of 2051 adults aged 18 and over from a range of social backgrounds.

Encouragingly, 83% of people who had a last will and testament in place have reviewed it within the last ten years.

The most common reason for not having a will is that the respondent “hasn’t gotten round to it yet” (31%), whereas the second most common responses were a lack of assets and the respondents considering themselves too young (17% each).

Dying without a valid last will and testament makes a hard time even harder for those closest to you. It slows everything down, from the granting of probate to the distribution of your assets. If you have children, the situation is complicated further as guardianship issues can arise if there is no surviving parent or legal guardian.

With makeawillonline.co.uk you can make a fully legal will at your convenience for a fraction of the price of visiting a solicitor. All wills are checked by our expert team for your peace of mind. So if you are one of the 31% of UK adults who simply haven’t got round to making a will, there has never been a better time than right now.

 


At the end of the will writing process, after you make a secure payment via debit/credit card or PayPal, your will document is emailed to the email address you provided at the start of the will writing process. Along with the document, you will find comprehensive instructions for signing, witnessing and storing your will.

The first thing to do is to look through the will and ensure that it represents your wishes, that all names and addresses are correctly filled in and that any amounts entered are correct. If you have not already informed those who you wish to act as executors or guardians, you could take this opportunity to do so (although we would recommend asking them before writing the will as both roles entail a great deal of responsibility).

The next step is to staple the will together and sign it in the presence of two witnesses. This is the step that makes your new will legal. The witnesses must not be beneficiaries of the will or legal partners of your beneficiaries. It is also important to chose witnesses who could testify in court that they saw you sign the document, in the case that the will is challenged after your death.

Once the document is signed and witnessed it is a legal last will and testament. But this means nothing if nobody can find it! Many banks and solicitors offer storage services. But wherever you store your will, the most important thing is to let your loved ones know where it is, otherwise it is useless. One option is The Principal Registry of the Family Division (PRFD), which is free and popular. Do not store your will in a safety deposit box as Probate can’t be granted without the original will and the box can’t be opened until Probate is granted!

If you make any changes to the will once it has been signed and witnessed, you will need to sign the changes and have that signature witnessed. There is more information about this in the instruction document that we send out with the will. In many circumstances it is easier to simply make a new will.

 


Does a married couple need two wills?


Posted on 17 April 2012


In almost all circumstances, a married couple should have two separate wills. There is the option of a “joint will” but in practise these are very rare and are treated as two separate wills by the courts anyway; the will is submitted for probate when the first testator dies and then again for each other testator.

With a pair of wills, each individual can specify how they want their possessions to be divided, which offers much more flexibility than a joint will.

A change in your marital status is an important point at which to write or update your will, as getting married automatically revokes any existing will, unless that document specifically states otherwise. This means that you will be left intestate and, in the event of your death, your estate would be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. Be sure to make the will after you get married and not before, otherwise it will be invalidated.

It is also very important to update your last will and testament if you separate from a spouse or civil partner. Under current laws, if you are in the process of getting divorced, your spouse remains first to inherit under the laws of intestacy until the decree absolute is issued. If you have a will in place, your spouse remains entitled to the share specified in the will until the point at which the decree absolute is issued, after which they are treated as if they died on the day at which that decree was issued.

The only way to ensure your possessions go to those who matter to you is to have a valid last will and testament in place. Make a will now.

 


Why Make A Will


Posted on 28 October 2017


  • Because if you don’t make a will, you have no say in how your estate is divided
  • Because the intestacy rules can cause some unpleasant surprises
  • Because managing an estate is slower and  more costly without a will
  • Because intestacy makes a hard time even harder for the people that matter most to you
  • Because it costs just £29.50 for a single will or £39.50 for a pair of wills
  • Because it takes less than 30 minutes of your time
  • Because it gives you peace of mind
  • Because you can ensure that those who matter to you are provided for

Making a will may not be glamorous, but it is one of the most important documents you will ever write. That’s why it’s important to choose experts like makeawillonline.co.uk for your will. Not only are our wills great value, but they are comprehensive legal documents designed in partnership with an experienced solicitor according to long-standing legal precedents.

With makeawillonline.co.uk you are in safe hands.

 


The benefits of making a will online


Posted on 17 February 2012


Making a will may not be at the top of your “to do” list, but we firmly believe that it should be. Less than half an hour of your time and a small investment can guarantee your peace of mind and your loved ones’ security in the event that anything should happen to you.

Makeawillonline.co.uk is one of the UK’s leading will writing services and has revolutionized the way residents of England and Wales can make a fully-legal last will and testament document. On this website, you simply answer a set of online questions about how you would like your estate to be divided and managed, after which a document is emailed to you, ready to print. Importantly, your document comes will comprehensive instructions for signing the will and having it witnessed. Until this process has been completed, any will (whethere produced by an expensive solicitor or our great-value, solicitor-designed software), is just another piece of paper!

We also offer the best value “Pair of Wills” packages on the internet. For just £39.50 you can create two wills, which can then be updated free of charge for up to a month.

Take control of this important step in your life with makeawillonline.co.uk.

 


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