A new online will-writing service will help people prepare a will in ten minutes and avoid forking out ‘hundreds of pounds’ on solicitors, the founders of a price comparison site claim. However, the director of a group offering legal protection to the elderly has warned it could be open to abuse.
James Dunn and Ian Strang, co-founders of Beyond, said their website now offers a ‘revolutionary’ service that will ‘disrupt one of life’s most archaic industries’.
According to Beyond, people can now make a will in around 10 minutes by answering a few quick questions about themselves and their wishes. ’Once they’re happy with their will, they print it off and sign it with two witnesses to make it valid,’ the company said.
It said solicitors usually charge consumers £100 to £200 for a ’simple will’ and that ’if just 5% of the UK population used Beyond’s service, the total saving would be in excess of £650m'.
But Jenny Pierce, director of Solicitors for the Elderly, warned that the tool could present a risk of fraudulent abuse, as assessing a person’s mental capacity to write a will and eligibility to sign the legal document online is limited.
‘Common errors, such as problems with the witnessing of the will, vague wording or failure to take into account all available assets, can lead to a poorly drafted or ineffective will,' Pierce said. She added: ‘We recommend seeking specialist legal advice when drafting a will.'
But Strang denied that the product would be susceptible to fraud.
‘Is the concern that the will isn't being signed and witnessed in the presence of a solicitor? If so, then I'm not sure how our product differs markedly from a DIY will or any other online will or even any solicitor-drafted will that isn't signed in their presence,’ he told the Gazette.
He added that those insisting that a simple will must be written with a solicitor were being 'a tad protectionist'.
‘The process for creating a simple will with a solicitor is simply a manual, laborious version of what we offer online,’ he said. 'I do agree that, for anything more complicated than a simple will, a solicitor is the best option. To that end, if a will is too complicated for our online offering, we refer customers to a partner solicitor.'
Beyond, formerly called ‘funeralbooker’, markets itself as a ‘challenger brand’ that aims ’to free people from their worries surrounding after-life arrangements’ . It already offers a price comparison tool for funerals.
The government is currently considering proposals by the Law Commission for will reform.