Where there's a will, make sure you know the way

A Will is probably the most important document you are ever likely to sign. But only one in three people have bothered to make a will and many of those are flawed or confusing, even when drawn up by solicitors.

One in four wills drawn up by a mix of solicitors, banks, insurance companies and specialist will writers was rated as poor, with some details being plain wrong, according to a new survey by the Consumers' Association (CA).

A panel of experts chosen by the CA looked at 51 wills and judged that the majority were confusing in some way. Only 12 of the wills were classed as good, meaning they were well thought out and covered all possible eventualities.

The CA survey comes as solicitors and will-writing experts launch their annual Will Week, beginning tomorrow. Will Week aims to persuade the estimated 70 per cent of the UK population who should have wills drawn up to actually do so.

Yet the CA found that no single type of will-writing professional stood out as best. Solicitors produced the most wills rated as good - nine - but more than half were only average or poor. Six out of seven wills written by banks and life insurers were average - the other one was poor. Most wills produced by specialist will writers were average or poor.

While the cost of making a will varies between pounds 23 and pounds 125, paying more is no guarantee of a better service. For less than pounds 5, one can buy a Do- It-Yourself will-making pack from a newsagent, fill in a blank form, sign it and then stuff it away in a drawer.

If your affairs are really very straightforward, it may be worthwhile, said a spokesman for the Law Society. But there is a danger in thinking that your affairs are too simple to merit professional help with your will. He added that solicitors make more money from sorting out the problems caused by inadequate home-made wills than from the charges to prepare a proper will in the first place.

And while you may want to write your own will so that you can put your wishes in simple terms, there are dangers there too. The instructions for dealing with your estate must be crystal clear and legally watertight. If there is any confusion about what you wanted, there is no chance of double-checking once you are dead.

Often the wording in a home-made will is open to at least two contrary interpretations.

There are also tax-planning issues. Or one may want to use the will to give executors and trustees greater powers than those conferred by law. And even after all those considerations, a will could turn out to be worthless if it is not signed and witnessed.

Both the Law Society and the CA recommend that UK residents living in or owning a property abroad, business owners, Lloyds Names, or someone whose estate may be liable to Inheritance Tax (the current threshold is pounds 200,000) should consult a lawyer.

The same applies if a person's family situation is complicated, through separation or divorce, for example.

The Law Society can provide names of three local firms which offer will- writing services. Some will do interviews at a client's home. Competition is rife so consumers can shop around.

Some banks, building societies and life-insurance companies offer will- writing services. Or one can use a specialist firm of will-writers.

Simon Harris of the Will Writers' Association, which has more than 1,000 members, said a will costs about pounds 50 for an individual, including a home visit. Couples should expect to pay around pounds 75. For an extra pounds 20 one can store a will with the Association for safekeeping - together with other documents, such as insurance policies.

The Royal National Institution for the Blind offers a range of free pamphlets and guides on how to make a will, which answer some of the most commonly- asked questions.

Whoever writes the will, it is vital to check all the details carefully. If something is not clear, make sure it is fully explained and understood. A will that does not meet a person's wishes could cause huge complications, during a time of great emotional stress, at a later date.

Law Society: 0171-242 1222. Will Writers' Association: 01745-584 414. Willmaker: 0171-436 8445. RNIB Wills & Legacy Advice Service: 0171 388 1266. NatWest Bank guide: 'How To Make a Will', free by calling 0800 722733. Guide books on making a will are available from all good bookshops.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas