A close relative who is seriously ill used a bank to draw up their will, and it is named as executor.
We want to avoid the charges involved in having the bank act as executor, which would come out of the estate.
Can I retype the existing will word for word, but change the date and make myself the executor, and then my relative could just sign the new one and get it witnessed again?
Would that make the bank’s copy obsolete, and save our family the charges for having it act as executor?
Changing executor: Can you oust a bank and avoid high fees by retyping a will and inserting a new name?
Tanya Jefferies, of This is Money, replies: Some banks which offer free or cheap wills have appointed themselves as executor, which allows them to levy heavy fees on an estate, as recently reported by our sister publication Money Mail.
‘The small print gave banks the right to appoint themselves as executor – and grab up to 2.5 per cent from an estate in legal fees,’ writes Ruth Lythe. ‘The inheritors of £500,000 of wealth risk paying out £12,500 – around six times the typical cost of £2,200.’
People with such wills and their families are understandably concerned, and want to ditch banks as the executor if possible to avoid high fees.
Money Mail offers a list of possible remedies here, including asking a bank to stand down from the role, negotiating a cut in fees, and tearing up an existing will and starting again.
‘In your new will, just include a line to clarify that it revokes all previous versions,’ it cautions.
We asked a lawyer whether retyping an old will and changing the date and executor is a good idea, and what risks you might face.
Alistair Robertson-Göpffarth, wills and tax solicitor at law firm Moore Blatch, replies: Appointing professional executors does have its advantages, but the issue is clearly at what cost.
Alistair Robertson-Göpffarth: ‘With a deteriorating illness it would be worthwhile for your relative to have a new will drafted’
Some organisations, often those that offered free wills, have clearly adopted charges that are disproportionately high considering the work involved.
Should you retype an old will?
It is possible this could make the bank’s will obsolete.
However, transcribing a will in this way would only be appropriate in very specific circumstances and only if the original will was made very recently, as older wills would not necessarily deal with current legal and tax changes.
In more common cases transcribing could also lead to it being challenged under the auspice of lack of testamentary capacity – your relative’s mental ability to make a will – or undue influence by you.
This could be the case if you also received a testamentary benefit under the will.
Recent changes in law such a will might not cover are the EU Succession Rules in 2015, which can be relevant in individual cases even though the UK opted out, and the Residential Nil Rate Band, a new allowance that lets people who own a home pass on more tax-free to direct descendants.
You also shouldn’t underestimate the time required and stress of being an executor if you decide to do it yourself.
Should you get a solicitor to redo your relative’s will?
It is generally recommended to review a will every three to five years, or whenever there have been substantial changes in personal circumstances.
In this case it would appear that with a deteriorating illness it would be worthwhile for your relative to have a new will drafted.
I’ve been asked to be an executor
Should I do it and what am I responsible for if something goes wrong? Read more here.
There is no general rule of when to use a solicitor for will drafting, but there are distinct advantages. A solicitor has the legal knowledge and should be able to advise on the tax issues.
In particular a solicitor would be able to deal with the issues of possible undue influence or capacity.
Quite often free will services offered by organisations or firms only cover basic wills. These would normally just comprise of funeral wishes, executor appointments and straightforward provisions for the distribution of your estate.
They would normally not include more complicated situations such as where there are numerous legacies, trusts needed or inheritance tax advice required.
It is important that people agree with a will drafter the full scope of the instructions and have an understanding of any associated fees.
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