Writing a will is not a task any of us look forward to. After all, by doing so you’re not only acknowledging your own mortality but actively planning for it. That might explain why so many adults avoid it like the plague.
However, creating a will is one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones. Putting your wishes on paper helps your heirs avoid unnecessary distress after your death. And you can have peace of mind knowing that your property, possessions and assets will be passed on to those you love after your death.
Considering that they are free and easy to use, a growing number of people have unsurprisingly been turning towards free will templates as the answer to their will writing problems. But while they do have some advantages, there are a couple of things no one will tell you about those free will templates.
You do not have to list all your assets
You do not have to list everything you own in your Will. Your Will is almost certainly not going to come into effect today. Chances are, it will be many years into the future, and between now and then, your assets will change. You do not want to have to update your will every time you buy or sell something.
2. They do not have the provisions for conditional bequests
It can be tempting to create a conditional bequest. A conditional bequest is a statement like:
“I leave £200,000 to my son James to be given to him when he graduates from University”.
The problem with this kind of bequest is that it doesn’t have a deadline. James may graduate from University when he’s 70 years old. Or he may not graduate at all. This means the funds may never be released and James may never be taken care of.
Free will templates may not afford you the opportunity to succinctly state your requests, the conditions under which they may be granted, and what to do if those conditions are not met. You may mean one thing but without a qualified and experienced professional undertaking the legal writing for you, your wishes may end up being interpreted in an entirely different way after your death, from that which you meant.
3. They do not make provisions for alternate situations.
This is the most common issue faced by people who use a free will kit. The process of creating a plan for the distribution of your estate is relatively easy. The challenge however is that you can’t exactly tell the future and in theory, anything could happen. What if your child predeceases you? How do you distribute your estate if your spouse is not the biological parent of your children? What if your Executor develops dementia?
Even if your situation is straightforward, these blank form free will kits become inadequate at the slightest irregularity.
4. Some free will kit service providers get revenue another way.
You have found a website that looks professional. A service that appears to have lawyers on the team. They have a strong social media presence, and they offer phone and email support. And the service is free. It almost seems too good to be true.
Truth is, it probably is.
There is another way websites providing free will kits generate revenue – the selling of data.
A new breed of free will service providers have gained notoriety lately. They have partnerships with funeral homes, financial advisors and insurance companies. The information that you enter into their service is a gold mine and a few weeks later you may find advertising for pre-paid funeral homes appearing online, or worse, at your door.
The advertisers know that you are taking some responsible financial steps in preparing your will. They may even know that you have certain accounts if you have included these in your will. They certainly know that you have children, and the ages of these children.
Your information may be sold to these service providers. After all, if you are not paying for the service, you become the product.
What can go wrong with Free Wills
Here are a few things that could go wrong with using a free will service and how to avoid them:
- Naming an executor
Designating a trusted individual to carry out your last wishes is a complicated decision. While you can ideally choose anyone, you should be careful who you choose. Do not simply pick someone just because they care about you. It is best you pick someone who either has some financial acumen or knowledge of the law – or better yet, both.
- Leaving assets to pets
Making sure your pet is well taken care of when you are gone is something of great importance to most pet lovers. However, you cannot just leave property to your pet. The law would consider such a statement invalid as it is equal to leaving property to property. The best thing to do is to leave the pet to someone and give explicit instructions on how take care of it.
- Designating unusual end-of-life decisions
The main problem here, is that some consumers confuse wills with living wills. If you put in your will, for instance, that you do not wish to be placed on life support in the event of a medical emergency, that document is not likely to be read until after you die, or possibly when you are in a lengthy coma. By then, it is too late.
- Funeral instructions
This is similar to the living will confusion: Most wills are not found or submitted to probate until after the burial has taken place. If you are going to put your burial instructions in a will, make sure you alert your executor – the person you name to handle the details of the will.
Making a free will can be a useful and rewarding experience. However, you should keep in mind that you are not a legal practitioner and as such may have a lot of things unaccounted for. It is best to at least run your will by a registered solicitor. You don’t know what important pieces of information you might be leaving out. And a will is not something you want to be leaving to chance.