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Will writing solicitors near me

How to find a solicitor who writes Wills or a dedicated Will writing service in Bristol.

aIf you live in or near Bristol, UK, there are several solicitors and Will writing services to choose from. The information in this guide is by a local Will-writing service, Bristol Wills & Estate Planning. It explains how to make a Will and the difference between Will-writing services (Will writers) and solicitors.

If you are ready to make an appointment with Bristol Wills & Estate Planning now, click the button to Request a Callback and enter your contact details.

You certainly have plenty of choice when it comes to making a Will in Bristol. Several solicitors providing Wills and estate planning and have offices in or near Bristol city centre. They include Barcan+Kirby Solicitors, Clarke Willmott, Cooke Painter Ltd. and Henriques Griffiths LLP.

Other Will-writing services in Bristol and the surrounding area include My Family Legacy, Kinherit Ltd, and Elm Legal Services Ltd.

This list is not comprehensive and is not an endorsement of any of these solicitors or Will writers or their services. Read on for more information on all aspects of Wills including free vs paid-for Wills and the hidden costs of making a Will.

Three steps to making a Will

1

  BOOK AN APPOINTMENT

Pick a time and date to suit your diary.

2

  DISCUSS YOUR WILL

Tell us your aims and circumstances.

3

  SIGN YOUR WILL

It’s legal once signed and witnessed.

What’s the difference between will writers and solicitors?

Will writers specialise in just this specific area of law – writing wills. Some will writers, as the name suggests, may only write wills. But typically, most will writers also provide other aspects of estate planning that are related to wills, including trusts, lasting powers of attorney, and information on inheritance tax.

On the other hand, solicitors often provide a wider range of services although they tend to specialise in a particular area like family law. Whether any given solicitor does more than just wills is likely to depend on the size of the firm. Bigger firms are likely to have specialists.

You do not need to use a solicitor to write a will for you because will writing is not a regulated profession. The reason that solicitors are regulated is for the other services they provide. will writing itself is not regulated.

The government has considered regulating will writing in the past. The latest investigation into the provision of will writing ended in 2013. After considering the findings, Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, announced that will writing should not be regulated.

In other words, the government decided that will writing would not become a reserved legal activity that only solicitors can provide. It’s perfectly legal for non-solicitors to write wills.

The situation has not changed since then. Will writing remains an unregulated profession. However, many will writers demonstrate their credentials by voluntarily joining industry bodies. That way, they can protect both their clients and their reputation. Industry bodies require them to take qualifications, undergo regular training, and have insurance.

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How do I choose a will writing service or solicitor in Bristol?

If you’re looking for a will writing service, we recommend using one that belongs to one of the two main professional organisations, the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) or the Society of Will Writers (SWW).

Both industry bodies have established codes of practice and complaint-handling procedures. You’ll find directories of local members based in Bristol on their websites.

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Questions to ask a will writer or solicitor

These are some basic questions to ask when you enquire about an appointment:

  • Where will the meeting be held?
  • Is the meeting free of charge?
  • How will the signing be done?
  • What insurance do you have?
  • Can I choose my executors?

Where will the meeting be held?

Some will writers and solicitors only do online appointments. Others may require you to visit their offices.

This can cause a problem for couples becuase both of you should be present at the first meeting. If it’s difficult for you both to be off work at the same time, you might want an evening or weekend appointment.

Many will writers and some solicitors offer home visits. In our experience, this is generally preferred my most people because we tend to be more comfortable at home. But be aware that some firms charge extra for home visits.

Bristol Wills & Estate Planning offers you a choice of venue. We mostly visit clients at home in the Bristol area but you can visit us in the office or book an online apppointment. We have some evening and weekend slots for appointments.

Is the meeting free of charge?

Most will writers and solicitors will offer a free initial consultation, which is typically an hour or 90 minutes. you should expect this as standard.

How will the signing be done?

It makes life much easier for you if the solicitor or will writer visits you in person. That way, you can minimise mistakes that may invalidate the will.

If they’re going to post documents to you, will they provide instructions on how to sign and witness it? Will they provide a free checking service to make sure it’s been done correctly? These things should be standard.

Video witnessing of wills, whereby both you and your witnesses are present online at the same time, was made legal for a temporary period during COVID. It might sound convenient but note that it is set to expire on 31 January 2024. Wills witnessed online after that time could be invalid unless the law is extended.

What insurance do you have?

Another key question is to find out about the insurance the will writing company has in place. Members of the two professional bodies, the IPW and SWW, are required to have indemnity insurance. This protects consumers if there’s a mistake in a Will that results in a beneficiary losing money.

Will you be a professional executor?

The executors are the people who administer your estate after your death, and you should be able to choose who you want to perform this role.

A will writer or solicitor may recommend that you appoint them as a professional, but you should always have the choice.

If you appoint a solicitor as a professional executor, they will be applying for a grant of probate and carrying out the estate adminstration. Your loved ones will not have a choice and will not be able to shop around for lower quotes.

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Do I legally have to make a will?

No, there is no legal requirement to make a will. Around 50% of people don’t make a will. The two most important questions are:

  • Do you have children under the age of 18?
  • Do you want to decide who gets your assets when you die?

If you have minor children you should not think twice about making a will. That’s because you can decide who brings up your children if both of their parents die before they reach the age of 18.

To find out who would inherit from you if you don’t make a will, spend a couple of minutes on the gov.uk website using the interactive “intestacy” website (“Who inherits if someone dies without a will?”)

The website runs through various scenarios showing who would inherit your estate depending on whether you are married (or in a civil partnership), have children or other living relatives.

Remember that this is just a forecasting tool because it only applies at the time you die. So if you have a spouse now, but they die before you, then different people may inherit.

Also, the intestacy rules only cover assets you own in your sole name. If you own a house jointly (as “joint tenants”) with a partner or spouse, they will automatically become the new owner by default.

If you don’t make a Will, it’s possible that your estate may also pay more inheritance tax. That’s because if you do make a Will, you can make the most of exemptions, such as the spousal exemption.

Another reason to make a will with a will writer or solicitor is to get advice, not just on Wills but also on pension nominations, life insurance trusts, Lasting Powers of Attorney and other matters that could affect the amount you can pass on.

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Can I make a Will without seeing a solicitor?

Yes, you can use one of many will writing services or will writers. Other ways of making a will without seeing a solicitor include:

  • Writing your own will (not recommended!)
  • Buying a will form template to fill in
  • Making a will online by completing a questionnaire

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Can I write my own will legally?

Yes, if you know how to do it! It will be perfectly valid as long as it complies with the Wills Act 1837.

An example of a well-known person who wrote his own will was TV presenter Dale Winton. When he died in 2018, his handwritten 2-page will reportedly left his £2.1 million estate to a friend.

Writing your own will, though, is fraught with potential pitfalls. If your will doesn’t comply with all the requirements of the Wills Act 1837, it will not be valid. That goes for witnessing as well as the wording in the will itself.

Writing your own will is ill-advised for anyone who has a partner, spouse or children. Why? Let’s say you manage to write your own will and it’s legally valid.

But what if you made a gift that leads to your children paying more inheritance tax. Or your will is challenged because someone has been left out inadvertently?

If you don’t have a family and you’re not too bothered about what happens to your estate when you die, you could try writing your own will. But be aware that it may not have the effect you intend.

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Are free wills actually free?

Yes, you can get a will for free. However, you will probably only be able to get a basic one for free. Even then, there may be hidden charges that you’re not aware of.

You can make a will for free by:

  • Writing your own from scratch
  • Using an online will service via a charity
  • Using a solicitor through a charity

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Can I download a free will form?

Yes. However, it’s hard to find an actual form to fill in. Most of the free will services I’ve found online are interactive questionnaires.

The questionnaire asks you a series of questions about your will. When you’ve finished answering all the questions, you’re then sent a link by email to download the will.

Bear in mind that in order to be legally valid, a will has to be a signed-and-witnessed paper document. There is no such thing as a truly “online” will, despite all the technological advances in the world today.

You can keep a scanned version of your will online, but a scanned will is not the actual will. Nor would it be accepted for probate when the time comes.

The free online will services I’ve found online are promoted by charities. They include the National Deaf Children’s Society, Cancer Research UK and British Heart Foundation.

The wills they offer are provided in partnership with third-party online will services such as Guardian Angel and Farewill. These are services you normally pay for.

So why are these wills free? Obviously, the charities will be hoping that you leave them a gift in the will in exchange for using the service. Charities get about a third of their income from gifts left in wills, so it matters a great deal to them.

The disadvantages of a free will are:

  • You’ll only get a simple (basic) will
  • You have to download, print and bind the will yourself
  • There’s no wider advice on inheritance tax position, asset protection, or future circumstances like getting married or divorced

The services I’ve tried out all say that the will is checked before being sent to you. However, this checking service would not account for:

  • Unforeseen consequences of the will you’ve made
  • Mistakes you make when signing and witnessing your will

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Can I get a free will from a solicitor?

Yes, you can get a solicitor to write a will for free at certain times of the year. The initiative is called Free Wills Month and it happens in March and October.

Why would a solicitor write a free will for you? It’s because it’s done in association with charities, who are expecting you to make a bequest to them in your will (though it’s not mandatory).

It’s best to book early as typically there are limited slots available. You’ll also be expected to leave the charity a gift in your will, which, after all, only seems fair.

Are there any other drawbacks with getting a free will?

Well, typically the type of will you’d get for free would be a basic one. Would a solicitor provide a more complex will involving trusts and asset protection for free – things that you need but perhaps hadn’t considered before? You’d have to ask them, but I doubt it.

The solicitor may suggest they act as professional executors. This means your family will not have the choice of whether or not to use them for estate administration. A free will could end up costing you more money.

If they are doing their job, the solicitor will rightly recommend Lasting Powers of Attorney if you don’t already have them. Would the additional fees for these, and potentially other documents besides, outweigh the free cost of the will?

And finally, is the solicitor going to store the will? They may charge for it or let you have it for free. Either way, your family will need to contact them when the time comes.

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Can you get a will form at the Post Office in the UK?

Many Post Office shops sell DIY Will kits. The ones I have seen are published by Lawpack but there are others on the market too.

It seems to be commonly thought that the Post Office has some sort of connection with wills. This isn’t true today, if it ever was. You can buy the same DIY Will kits in WH Smith and online from the likes of Amazon.

Lawpack’s Do-it-yourself Last Will and Testament consists of a guide to filling out the will and several template forms.

Using a form like this might make sense if you don’t have many assets and you’re not worried about protecting assets for future generations.

But bear in mind these forms are only suitable for producing simple wills. They don’t allow you to include a trust, or specialist gifts of business assets or an inheritance tax “nil rate band” (allowance) that might benefit you.

If your circumstances are more complex, or you have a lot of assets, it’s best to get advice from an expert before going ahead and making your own.

There are two things that can go wrong if you write your own Will:

  1. Unintended consequences
  2. Mistakes

Unintended consequences could be a gift that unwittingly triggers inheritance tax. For example, if you make a gift to someone who is not exempt for inheritance tax. You should never put tax before your main intentions. But be aware that there could be more tax to pay later on, which could have been avoided.

A mistake could be because you signed and witnessed the will incorrectly, or perhaps stored it incorrectly. Any one of those things could lead to the will not being accepted by the Probate Registry, which has to approve a will when someone dies.

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How much does a will cost in the UK?

Prices vary widely. MoneyHelper, a website sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions, says “a simple will can cost between £150 and £2,408”. But in my opinion those figures are both wrong and out of date. If you’ve paid over £2,000 for a simple will, I’d say you’ve been massively overcharged!

The UK Care Guide and other websites quote an average figure of £150 – £250 and that seems about right for a simple will, albeit probably on the low side for 2024. It’s also an average. Like most things, wills tend to cost more in Bristol than they would in the north.

My advice is not to compare services based on price alone. You’d be forgiven for thinking, “You would say that!” However, there are many different types of will available. More complex wills are going to cost more.

A simple will may not be right for you. A professional should get to know you and your individual circumstances before recommending any particular product.

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How much should I expect to pay for a will in the UK?

There isn’t a simple answer to this because it depends entirely on your circumstances. If a more complex type of will might work better for you and your loved ones. You might still choose to go with a cheaper one, but the choice is yours.

So what do we mean by a “complex will”?

The MoneyHelper website says that “if you’ve been divorced and have children” a complex will can cost between £162 and £477. 

What they mean is a more robust type of will ensures that the right people inherit and the wrong people don’t. If you’re trying to exclude an ex-spouse, for example, or if you have children from different relationships.

A more robust will has a trust in it, and adding a trust to the will normally adds £200 or £300 pounds to the price. I think MoneyHelper’s figures at the low end (£162) are unrealistic for adding a trust.

The cost of a will might be higher still if you want to protect assets for future generations or ensure they inherit without paying too much inheritance tax. As MoneyHelper says, “For a specialist will that involves trusts or overseas properties or you want tax planning advice, expect to pay a minimum of a few hundred pounds.”

But why do complex wills cost more? They are just bound paper documents after all, the same as simple wills!

It’s because you are paying for consultancy and advice – the know-how to include the correct type of trust and tailor it to your circumstances.

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What are the hidden costs of making a will?

Be wary of wills that seem cheap and then having to pay extra for:

  • VAT
  • Additional meetings
  • Documents such as a Letter of Wishes
  • Home visits
  • In-person witnessing
  • Severing the tenancy (if required)

All of these, while legitimate, could increase the price you pay for your will.

Firms with high turnover are often registered for VAT for tax reasons. Their published price lists should declare if you need to add 20% on to the quoted prices.

Legal firms also have different ways of charging. Just as Ryanair famously sells you a cheap seat and charges you for extras, so solicitors may ask for extra for writing an accompanying Letter of Wishes or other legal document.

Sometimes they’ll charge extra to visit you in person, for witnessing your will, or for additional consultations beyond the first appointment.

There are also extra costs that only come into play after your death.

  • If a firm of solicitors is named as a professional executor in your will, you’ll have to use them for estate administration. Your family will not be able to shop around for a more cost-effective service.
  • Some firms provide free storage of your will, which sounds good on the face of it. But your family will have to contact them to retrieve your will and at that point they can offer their probate services. It’s an awkward conversation at the very least.

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Why does the cost of a will vary from a solicitor?

There are a few factors that affect the price you’ll pay for a will.

I think the main ones are:

  • Location
  • Type of will
  • Business model

Location

It’s a fact of life that London is more expensive than anywhere else in the UK. for most things. Likewise, the south of England tends to be more expensive than the north.

But when it comes to will writers and solicitors, the physical location of the firm isn’t the only factor. You could pay less for  online consultations than home visits. And you may pay less for a remote attestation, whereby you arrange your own witnessing, than a supervised attestation.

Type of will

There are many different types of will available. Asking how much a will costs is like asking how much a car costs. A Ford Mustang costs twice as much as a Ford Fiesta! And just as you don’t need a Ford Mustang to drive to the supermarket, a complex type of will may not be right for you.

Plus, couples generally get a discount compared to single people. That’s simply because they can often make “mirror wills” that leave everything to each other. Since the process is the same, there are economies of scale here. Mirrored wills usually do not cost twice the price of a single will. They are usually cheaper.

Business model

Aldi has a different business model to Waitrose, as does Ryanair from British Airways. So it’s not surprising that  legal firms charge differently.

Some legal firms have offices to rent and salaried staff to pay, which affects their profit margin. On the other hand, some have so many clients that they can afford to offer cheap services.

Larger firms employ dedicated individuals to sit in a back office writing wills. That person may not even meet you, the client.

Then there’s the cost of insurance and regulation (for solicitors) that differs for every firm.

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How long does it take for a solicitor to prepare a will?

Most solicitors and some will writing services have codes of practice outlining how long it should take. It’s fairly accepted that it should take no more than two weeks between you giving your instructions and the delivery of signed documents.

In practice, the two-week period is typically longer. You might need extra time to think about who you want to appoint as executors or guardians, for example. Or it might take you a bit of time to check details such as the spelling of names or addresses.

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How to use this information

This article represents our understanding of the law and tax rules at the time it was published (2024). It provides general information and is intended as a starting point for further research and conversations. Please seek competent professional advice before taking any action in relation to Wills and estate planning. Bristol Wills & Estate Planning Ltd is not liable for any errors or omissions on this page or for any actions taken as a result of reading this information.

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Martin Lewis on Will writing, Powers of Attorney and Inheritance Tax

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