When we see this offer advertised, our hearts sink (unless there is a charitable reason).
Will writing is our core business, we are specialists in the field and hold the relevant insurances and a Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) qualification. Our fees are not extortionate, but they do cover a lot of work:
- setting up an appointment
- sometimes travelling to an appointment and the associated travel costs/time
- carrying out the appointment (usually appointments last around an hour) and
- offering advice and answering questions
- sending follow up emails where appointments have been held remotely
- drafting Wills and sending them to clients
- liaising with clients regarding draft Wills and sending gentle reminders where
- making amendments and then preparing final Wills and posting them/hand-
- delivering them to clients
- checking the way Wills are signed
- sometimes placing them into storage
How long do you think that whole process takes? On average it is around 4 – 5 hours.
So why would any company doing the job properly give away all that time for free? They probably make shortcuts, and it will probably be a less personal service, and that is just the start…there must be something in it for that company to be offering something for free. The saying ‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is’ springs to mind!
Is the person who is conducting the work qualified? Will you end up with a legally valid Will document if someone with no qualifications and/or little experience drafts your Will for you?
What is the core business of the company who are offering ‘free’ Wills? Are they Financial Advisors, Mortgage Consultants or Protection specialists – are they looking for Will clients who they can talk to about all their other services in the hope that they can make money that way? You may be fine with that, but be prepared to possibly be ‘sold to’ about other services etc.
Are they a company who offer ‘Probate Services’ and may try to persuade you to appoint them as executors of your Will? This may not be the best solution – often it is better (and much cheaper) for family members who have been appointed as executors to choose who they use if they need professional help when the time comes.
The terms and conditions when a ‘free’ Will is offered will no doubt say that the free Will would only be a basic one. It may be that some aspects like appointing more than one executor, appointing guardians, or making gifts won’t be treated as a basic Will, so fees will be incurred that way – you may end up paying more for your ‘free’ Will than you would have if you had paid the standard fees of another firm. Our Will fee covers most aspects apart from business clauses and any Trusts (apart from those for minors which are covered by our standard fee). There are no nasty surprises if you make a Will with us!
As mentioned at the outset, an exception to this is where free Wills are offered in exchange for a donation to charity. It is clear, that in this case, the company are offering the ‘free’ Will for a valid reason and will use their experienced, qualified staff to prepare a certain number of Wills for free – usually over a one week or one month period. They will have a suggested amount that should be donated to the charity in return. This is commendable of course we have no issue with this and have participated in Free Wills week/month several times ourselves.
You might deem the free Will offered in return for a charitable donation not to be free at all – and you’d be right (unless you decide not to donate of course).
So, the bottom-line is make sure you check out the company offering a ‘free’ Will. Look at their reviews, check their qualifications and insurances and ask questions about what a ‘basic’ Will consists of and what you might have to pay for. Ask yourself why they might be offering this as a free service. It is likely that the ‘free’ Will won’t actually turn out to be free at all!