Free Wills Month brings together a group of well-respected charities to offer members of the public aged 55 and over the opportunity to have their simple wills written or updated for free, by using participating solicitors in selected locations around England and Wales.
The concept is undoubtedly laudable – and it would be churlish in the extreme to criticise the charities whose wonderful work deserves the unstinting support of us all.
What has always troubled me, however, is the impact that these initiatives have on the perceived value to clients of a carefully crafted and well-thought-through will. Free wills week, law firms choosing to provide free wills as a value-add in conjunction with residential conveyancing, and the explosion of DIY will-drafting options both online and retail, all do considerable incremental damage to both the perceived value and the skill and knowledge required to carry out this work to a high standard.
In aggregate, these initiatives have created the impression among many that all wills are: ‘simple’ (whatever that means); do not require great skill or knowledge; a standard form that lends itself to pretty much anyone filling in the blanks, occasioning few risks.
I cannot help thinking that everyone would be better off if lawyers charged properly for wills and simply made a donation of £100 per partner per annum to their preferred charity.
Richard Burcher, chairman, Burcher Jennings, London EC4