Your Essential Guide to Cheap and Free Wills Services in the UK
Writing a will shouldn't cost the earth. In this guide we explore the archaic to modern low cost options available to make your will.
Whether you’re 22 or 72, writing a will is one of the most important things you can do to protect your estate (assets) and the people you care about the most. Despite the importance of will writing, more than half of UK adults are at risk of dying without one (known as dying intestate), putting thousands of families across the UK at risk.
A will is the only legally binding document which gives you the final say on what happens to your estate (comprised of all your possessions including property, land and money) when you die.
It also offers a platform for UK citizens to reduce the amount of inheritance tax owed on their estate in the event of their death, as well as leave heartfelt gifts to loved ones and prevent family disputes that might arise as a result of dying without a will.
A will is used to name beneficiaries (the people who you choose to receive something from your estate when you die) and appoint executors, who will be given the legal duty of dealing with the process of probate and managing your estate.
Without a legally binding will, your estate is distributed in accordance with UK law (known as intestacy rules), which could potentially see your loved ones miss out on inheritance.
Do I need a will?
The truth is that most people need a will, but there are a few scenarios in which writing a will becomes even more important. These include:
When you become a parent, it is important to recognise that, without your wishes being stated clearly in a will, the guardian of your children (until they turn 18) would be decided by the courts.
As well as appointing a legal guardian for your children, you may wish to set out clear rules for their inheritance in a will or even make them a beneficiary of a trust.
If you are not married...
Those who are not married or in a civil partnership are not legally entitled to anything from their partner when they die, unless they are written into a will.
This might just mean that they don’t automatically receive any money or possessions from you; however, in more serious scenarios, your partner might not be able to continue living in your home.
A change to your personal circumstances...
Life moves fast, so when there’s a change to your personal circumstances, it’s important that your will matches those changes and meets your exact wishes for when you die.
For example, if you get married in England or Wales, any existing last will and testament that you might you have is automatically revoked (cancelled), while you may also want to ensure that a step-child receives a fair inheritance, too.
If you have specific funeral requests...
While you won’t be around to witness it yourself, you might rest easier knowing that your funeral is planned for and will be carried out in-line with your preferences.
From deciding the music to choosing between a burial or cremation, the wishes you leave in your will are not legally binding, but will help your loved ones ensure you get that last goodbye that you desired.
If you own property abroad...
Property owned on a ‘joint tenants’ basis will automatically be passed over to the surviving owner when you die, but things aren’t quite as simple for any property owned on a ‘tenants in common’ basis.
For ‘tenants in common’, intestacy rules apply as normal unless you have a legally binding will – if you own property abroad, these laws might be different to those in the UK.
If your estate is likely to be charged inheritance tax...
Estates valued at more than £325,000 (known as the IHT threshold or nil rate band) are subject to an inheritance tax bill when the owner dies. Writing a will can help you with inheritance tax planning before you die, reducing the financial impact on your family
For example, writing assets in trust or giving gifts in the years prior to death detract from the value of your estate, therefore reducing its taxable value
It is important to note that gifts must be given at least 7 years prior to death; otherwise, they will count as part of your estate and will be subject to IHT.
Despite it being of such high importance, the will writing market is not regulated.
This means that there is no one way to write a will; however, failing to make the correct decision on how you make it could be the difference between a legally binding will and an invalid one.
Using a solicitor to write a will comes with extra protection seeing as they are regulated professionals (however, this can be costly), while using a will-writing service comes with similar expert advice and guidance, but without the legal protection.
Many people choose to write a will themselves using a DIY will kit; however, this process comes without any legal protection and removes the pivotal step of receiving guidance to ensure you are fully aware of the information being asked for and the decisions that you make as part of the will making process.
Choosing who writes your will is almost as important as what you write in it – after all, an invalid will is no good to anybody.
Solicitors are regulated but come at a cost
Solicitors aren’t a must when it comes to writing a will, but they are regulated professionals meaning that you have a bit of extra protection should something go wrong.
Because registered solicitors are all regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), you (or your family) can complain about any problems which stem from a will written by a solicitor, either directly to the solicitor’s firm or to the Legal Ombudsman.
There is also additional security in place in the event that the solicitor’s firm dealing with a will closes down, as well as an additional £1 million of cover provided by the SRA’s Solicitors Indemnity Fund.
It is worth noting that, just because they are trained professionals, there is still a chance that a solicitor could make an error whilst writing a will – despite this, it is generally the most secure option for those with larger or more complicated estates.
Solicitors will, of course, charge a premium for their services which can often run into several hundreds-of-pounds when paying by the hour.
Will writing services are low-cost with professional support
With prices as low as £29.99, a will-writing service is perhaps the most popular option for writing a will.
For the majority of people whose estates are relatively simple to distribute, will writing services provide a cheap and convenient method for putting together a last will and testament. If you plan on leaving assets to your immediate family and you don’t own any property abroad, a will writing service should be sufficient.
These days, the majority of services allow you to write a will online, but there are some which will offer to visit you at home instead. Although this is a convenient option, it is worth checking whether there is a cost for the home visit service on a per provider basis.
While nearly all will writing services employ specialists and work with solicitors who will check all wills thoroughly, the service itself is not regulated and the protection offered might not always be as comprehensive as that offered by qualified solicitors.
If you’re considering using a will writing company to write your will, we’d recommend shopping around as the prices offered (along with the service) can vary.
From our extensive research, we’d recommend Wills.Services, which offers both single and mirror wills (usually for married partners) at a more than affordable price and works with highly-trained legal professionals to ensure it is accurate. Wills.Services’ specialist team offers greater guidance than that offered by many other providers, with a multi-step process in place to identify any potential errors:
1) Register online to create an account.
2) Answer some simple questions about you and your estate (i.e. how you want to share any inheritance out and who you want to manage probate, etc.).
3) Once you’ve answered all questions, you have the chance to review your information and make any changes if necessary.
4) If you are happy, you then make the appropriate payment.
5) Once payment has been received, the team at Wills.Services will review your will and address any issues, which you will be informed about via phone or email.
6) The team will send you your will with information on how to get it properly signed and witnessed (to make sure it is completely legal).
7) Once it has been signed and witnessed, you simply return it to the team and they will double-check everything to make sure your last will and testament is accurate and legally binding.
DIY will kits offer no advice & no protection
You can make your own will with a DIY will kit, but they are not recommended despite their low cost.
While you can pick up a DIY will kit for as little as £5 in some stationary stores, they come with very little guidance on how to write a will, meaning that those who use one are prone to making errors.
The company you buy your will template from is in no way liable for what is in your will or how it is written, so while the cost of making a will may be significantly reduced, you really are on your own when using a DIY will kit.
Appointing an Executor
When writing a will, you always have the choice to appoint your own executor (the person who will manage the distribution of your estate upon death, along with settling any remaining debts and taxes). Some solicitors and will-writing services will suggest that you allow them to execute your will for you, which can save your loved ones time, money and stress at an already-difficult time, but you should always check to see if there are any hidden fees for this service.
Now you know what a will is, why you need one and how they are generally written, it’s time to figure out which will-writing method is best, both in terms of the cost of making a will and the services on offer.
Free and cheap wills from solicitors
We’ve mentioned on multiple occasions throughout this guide that getting a solicitor-written will is the most expensive option, but there are a few ways in which you can create one for cheaper; in some cases, you may even get one for free.
Free wills for members of Trade Unions
One of the best ways to find a low-cost solicitor for will writing is through a Trade Union.
Unite The Union (commonly referred to as ‘Unite’ and affiliated with TUC – the Trade Union Congress) is the largest Union in the country that works in almost every sector, with more than 1.2 million members across the UK. Unite offers members direct access to a free will writing service once they have been in the Union for a minimum of 13 weeks.
Trade Unions like Unite identify only the best will writing services for its members, combining experts and industry-leading technology to bring will writing into the 21st century.
Another well-known Union is the GMB, with over 600,000 members. GMB is similar to Unite in that it is a TUC-affiliated Union and the members work in a number of different industries; however, the majority are manual workers. The GMB works alongside UnionLine, a Trade Union law firm, meaning that members of the GMB also have access to free legal services, including free will-writing.
If you’re a member of a Union, it is definitely worth checking to see if you are entitled to a free will, or if not, check to see if it could help to protect you, your safety at work and your family’s future.
Take advantage of Free Wills Month
Free Wills Month comes around twice every year (March and October), offering a free, solicitor-drafted will to anybody over the age of 55.
So, what’s the catch? Technically, there isn’t one – but the solicitors’ firms which offer a free will during Free Wills Month are usually associated with a charity, and it is hoped that you’ll leave a gift (most choose to gift around £250-£300 after death) to a good cause.
It should be noted that, for those with particularly complicated estates and affairs, it is likely that your chosen solicitor will charge extra for the additional time required to write your will. Appointments are often limited and are taken up fast, so if it is something you’re interested in, be sure to get in there as soon as possible.
Not all solicitors partake in Free Wills Month, but there are plenty that do. You can find your closest Free Wills Month participating solicitors by entering your postcode into the Free Wills Month website.
Other charity schemes
Outside of Free Wills Month, there are a number of other charities which offer a free will writing service in the hope that you leave a donation to the organisation.
Will-specific charities like Will Aid (or Will Relief Scotland in Scotland) team up with a range of charities every single year to raise money by offering a free will writing service. These schemes are available to anybody, regardless of age, with any donations distributed amongst the small selection of participating charities.
Some other individual charities which offer free will writing include:
- Cancer Research UK (for over-18s, all year-round)
- The Stroke Association (for over-60s or stroke survivors, limited period)
- The Children’s Hospital (no restrictions)
There is no set fee when getting a free will through a charity scheme; however, try to keep in mind that it is essentially the charity that is paying for your will, so do give generously if you can afford it.
Free wills with home insurance legal coverage
If you ticked the box to opt for legal cover when taking out your last home insurance policy, it might include a free will service.
This isn’t a service offered by all home insurance providers, so be sure to check whether or not you are entitled to a free solicitor-drafted will by contacting your home insurance company.
If you’re looking to write a will and would be interested to see whether or not you could get one written for free with a home insurance policy, request a quote from Bobatoo today and one of our expert advisors will find the very best home insurance deal for you, your home and your family.
Cheap will writing services
If you don’t want to fork out the money for a solicitor, but would like to have support on hand to help you when making a will, why not meet in the middle with a will writing service?
You can make a will online with an online will service or request a face-to-face meeting with a service which will require somebody to be sent to your home, which might be a better option for elderly or disabled individuals.
While most are not regulated by the Society of Will Writers (SWW), many will-writing services employ trained and experienced legal experts who will conduct various thorough checks of your will to ensure that it is completely water-tight.
Below we’ve compiled a few of the best will writing services, along with their prices, to give you an idea of what to expect:
|Wills.Services - £29.99*||Wills.Services - £49.99*|
|Fairwill - £90||Fairwill - £140|
|Beyond - £90||Beyond - £135|
|Kwil - £90||Kwil - £120|
|Which? – From £99||Which? – From £156|
|Co-op Legal Services - £150||Co-op Legal Services - £234|
*Sale price for a limited time. Regular Prices: £39.99 (Single) and £59.99 (Mirror).
Local solicitors – will writing solicitors near me
If none of the above options suit you then it might be worth seeing if there are any solicitors local to you that can offer you a cheap will writing service.
Search the Law Society’s database to see where your local solicitor is based and give them a call to request a quote for your will – phone around a few local solicitors to see which one offers you the best deal.
DIY will writing kits
If you’re on an extremely tight budget then using a DIY will kit to write your will is better than not having one at all, but be warned, it is not a great option.
A DIY will kit should only be used in the case of extremely simple wishes. For example, if you want to leave your entire estate to your spouse and, if they were to die before you, your children. Anything more complicated than this (eg. Specific wishes, donating to charity, owning property abroad or including step-children/unmarried partners as beneficiaries) will require the assistance of a will writing service or solicitor.
To write a legal will using a DIY kit, you must be over the age of 18 and have the mental capacity to write it. The document must be signed, dated and witnessed as per UK law, but other than these basic guidelines, you’re on your own.
Mistakes such as spelling errors, incorrect addresses and vague descriptions have caused unnecessary stress for thousands in the past – unless you’re fully confident that you can write yourself a legally binding document, you’ll be better off leaving it to the professionals.
Storing a will is vitally important and, if not done properly, it could result in the document becoming lost and, as a result, invalid.
When paying the premium for using a solicitor to write a will, they will usually store it for you at no extra cost.
Will-writing services will also offer you a place to store your will, but they may charge an additional fee which is usually signposted throughout your will making process.
Storing your will at home is often seen as the most risky option, due to the risk of it being misplaced, damaged or thrown away. Residents of England and Wales can also store their will with the Probate Service for £20.
How much does a will cost?
The cost of a will can vary anywhere between £5-£500+. Depending on how you choose to do so, you can even write a will for free.
If you’re looking to save a bit of money, our advice would be to stay clear of cheap DIY will kits and instead opt for a low-cost will writing service - you can start writing a will for as little as £29.99 with Wills.Services.
What’s the situation with inheritance tax?
The inheritance tax rate in the UK is 40% and is charged on the value of an estate that exceeds the £325,000 per-person threshold.
Inheritance tax is not charged when an estate is inherited by a spouse or civil partner, and the £325,000 threshold is transferred to the survivor, essentially doubling their tax-free threshold to £650,000.
By failing to plan for inheritance tax, loved ones could potentially miss out on £100,000s – for more information on how to avoid this nightmare scenario, read Bobatoo’s complete guide to avoiding inheritance tax.
What is a mirror will?
Sometimes called ‘bloodline wills’, mirror wills are written by 2 individuals (usually married partners) where the terms are essentially the same, saving money on writing 2 separate single wills.
When writing a mirror will, each partner names each other as the primary beneficiary, with each of them including a backup beneficiary in the event that both were to die at the same time.
What months do solicitors do free wills (UK)?
The official ‘Free Wills Month’ falls in both March and October, but there are various charities and charity schemes which offer a free will writing service in exchange for a charity donation all-year-round.
Are DIY will kits legal?
DIY will kits are legal to buy and, when completed in full, can be executed like any other will.
However, it is not suggested that you go down the route of writing your own will – legal documents like wills can be extraordinarily complicated and, when something as simple as a spelling error could deem it invalid, it isn’t usually worth the risk.
Can I do my will online?
Yes – there are plenty of low-cost, reputable will writing services which allow you to write a legally binding last will and testament from the comfort of your own home.
Wills.Services, for example, guide their customers through every step of the online will writing process, with the aid of a professionally trained legal team.