March is again being marketed as ‘Free Wills’ month. The idea is to sign-up with a participating charity, then be directed to solicitors willing to provide a free will.

So, what is the catch?

Well, charity involvement is probably not one of them, as the scheme raises money for some great causes.

At rhw we support the immunotherapy charity ‘Topic of Cancer’ all year round and can help you make gifts to the charities you choose whether they participate in the scheme or not.

But you may wonder whether a charity prompting you to sign a document that affects your entire estate may be the tail that wags the dog.

Some points to consider with the Free Will Scheme

  1. The scheme is only open to those over the age of 55. Anyone who owns assets, is married or in a civil partnership, or has children should have a valid Will — age should not be a factor. Not being eligible for a ‘free’ will should not deter you from getting the estate planning advice you need.

 

  1. The scheme is for ‘simple’ Wills only, but stray beyond strict pre-set boundaries, and you may end up being charged after all. That is not necessarily inappropriate, but it does rather undermine the incentive, particularly when adding the cost of dealing with an unfamiliar firm. At rhw we always encourage clients to consider a wide range of scenarios to ensure you get the Will you need, at a competitive price.

 

  1. Receiving something free from a charity does rather seem to have the incentive the wrong way ‘round. Whether your gift is a small part of a large estate, or even the entirety of a small estate, charitable giving is best done in the context of comprehensive advice. The limited parameters of free advice may not prove to be best for either you, your beneficiaries – or even the charity!

Ultimately, a Will is a vital document that should give you peace of mind.

By contrast, a badly drafted Will can store up problems and legal challenges that will be an unwelcome source of stress. It could delay the distribution of an estate, to personal beneficiaries and charities alike.

At rhw we have a busy team who deal with the outcomes of badly drafted Wills. We also witness the issues that emerge as a result: from intestacy, to seemingly inevitable family tensions.

What you should do to protect yourself

If you do decide to go with the ‘free Will’ route, please:

  • Check carefully that the Will you end up with, properly addresses your individual circumstances, or seek advice from someone who can help.
  • Check that you have been asked questions by the solicitor that make you think ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought of that!’
  • Read your Will carefully, and then read it again: be sure to get even minor errors corrected now, as there may be little beneficiaries can do to correct problems or avoid legal challenges that arise after you have gone.

Finally, however you choose to draft your Will, do consider leaving a legacy to a charity of your choice! That remains a valuable result in all circumstances, after all.

Jack Haskew

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