Excused

Well my email response seems to have worked.

The bill will be the agreed £120, and we can go ahead with this lawyer once changes have been understood and made.

We are meeting with a financial adviser tonight, so we’re keen to find out what his opinion will be regarding taking care of the children.

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Responsible

My response to the lawyer’s email and invoices is as follows:
Hi [Lawyer colleague]
Thank you for the email and attachments.

Everything seems to have got into a bit of a muddle, and we had actually begun to give up hearing back from [Lawyer].

From the outset, we asked for the cost of two wills and the fee, or rate, to act as co-executor so that we could choose who to go with. [Lawyer] responded to our web form enquiry from January – but did not discuss costs. I asked again by email, and I then telephoned and left a recorded message on 2nd February. When I did speak with [Lawyer], we arranged to meet at our home on Saturday 11th February, during which we were told she charged £60 for a will – and that she hadn’t increased this for a while, and that she really ought to raise her prices. She explained that it would be best if she wasn’t formally named as an executor, but that she would rather be informally on hand should one of us require support and assistance on an ad hoc basis in the event of the death of one of us. Despite lacking certain details, she would be able to email through draft wills within a day or two.

On 13th February we received a recorded message from [Lawyer] in response to our enquiry from 2nd February, it was clear that she didn’t realise that she had dealt with this enquiry, and when we did not receive the drafts, after nearly a month, we were surprised to receive your email and invoices out of the blue.

You will surely understand that as we have not heard anything, we have had to start shopping around elsewhere, and now have appointments lined up in this regard.

We had expected draft wills about three weeks ago, and would have expected to pay £120 on completion of the two wills. We are surprised to see invoices for £200 (the most expensive we’ve been quoted to date), discounted down to £160. These are very generic drafts, and are not what was discussed, for example, one of them mentions [Lawyer] as executor – which is a surprise, especially as we do not have an idea about the fees for that would be.

I am sure you can appreciate our position in light of the above. You have asked us to accept your apologies and because of the family bereavement, we are, of course, prepared to do so – as long as you are prepared to stick with the original plan as agreed at our meeting.

If you can remove [Lawyer] as executor, we’ll provide the details required to complete the wills. On completion of the wills, we’ll pay your corrected invoice for £120 all as expected, as discussed and as agreed. If these terms are now unacceptable to you, please let us know as soon as possible because we have appointments and arrangements to consider.

We liked [Lawyer]when we met her, and accept that things can get muddled up in such circumstances. We have no wish to cause [Lawyer]additional distress or concern, and any pains we have taken with this email have been to clarify and nothing more.  Please pass on our heartfelt condolences to her if you can.

Wavering

In my last post I was happy to report that we finally found a lawyer, but now (just a week on), I’m not so sure all is well.

We all have our own personal niggles, and I am no different; I have a problem with people not living up to certain standards. I get disappointed when I am oversold.

This lawyer has a nice website, and even little videos. She’s nice in person too. It’s all as I outlined in my last post. But there’s a but. Maybe there’s always a but.

My first action was to send a message via the contact form of her website – I specifically outlined what I wanted. She emailed back pretty promptly. I immediately replied with more detail, including my phone numbers, and asking what she would charge for two wills and executor duties.

Then I waited – for days – so I phoned and left an ansafone message with my name and phone numbers.

I got a phone call from her a day or so later, and we made the appointment for Saturday morning, I gave my address and postcode. I was a little bit irked that she hadn’t just given me the cost information – if she was going to be expensive, I wouldn’t waste anyone’s time on an appointment, but hey, perhaps she needs to see us to decide to take us on – and maybe then she would come up with the prices on the spot.

On Saturday morning she called early to make sure we had remembered about the meeting – a good sign in my book. However, she was quite late anyway – a good 25 minutes – and remember this is is the day of my daughter’s birthday party.

When she arrived, she was in jeans and a jumper, which was a surprise, but then it made it less formal, after all, it is the weekend and a home visit. But she began by saying that she didn’t read the email, and couldn’t remember the form stuff.

So I had to begin again with the whole story. She even asked my name, email address, and phone numbers, and jotted them down on her pad.

By the way, I have to say that I noticed all this, but was happy to let it slide. I made allowances that she may be very busy, and get a lot of enquiries that come to nothing. I assumed that now that she’d met us and taken notes, it would be all right.

We were expecting her to email draft wills within a few days to get the ball rolling.

Mid-week my wife noticed we had a new ansafone message – this lawyer had called and left a voice message.

The message was replying to the message I’d recorded on her ansafone before our meeting. She clearly didn’t realise that it was me – she was wanting to set up an initial appointment.

It hurts me to think this, but maybe this lawyer is scatter-brained.

You know, over the years, I’ve worked with quite a few lawyers, and none of them have come up to scratch; they all seem to fly by the seat of their pants – reading cases minutes before court, minimum effort and preparation.

I have had to do loads of work on contracts or conveyancing myself – and then hand it over to them. It’s always sloppy, and disappointing if you have been brought up with Hollywood movies and TV dramas where solicitors are up all night combing through evidence and trying really hard to make everything legally airtight.

Website advice is always about seeking professional help – see your GP before doing exercise or going on a diet – get a lawyer to check fine print, small print, and detail of contracts and documents.

Anyhoo. This one seems just the same as the rest of them. I’ll have to go through whatever she comes up with and fix it myself – and pay her the fee just to have the “check with a solicitor” tickbox ticked.

 

Meeting The Lawyer

I know that there has been a lack of posts to this site – and that has been because the quest has been on for finding a solicitor.

I searched the internet, and emailed three firms. One didn’t respond, one responded with an email that showed they hadn’t read our email, and the third responded positively and quickly – and, importantly for us, could meet us outwith standard office hours of 9-5 weekdays only.

The internet search was pretty comprehensive to get it down to the three I tried to contact. I weighed up all the information pretty carefully; we need a lawyer that we feel comfortable with – someone we can actually talk to in a real and frank way, straight-up.

We think we found that in the end. We went with a female solicitor – about the same age as my wife, and from the same neck of the woods too.

Her website was really cool, and informative too. Not a big firm, not a fancy office. Perfect. Let’s face facts: I am logically and statistically the most likely to go first, so my wife has to have support at a pretty harsh time – she needs someone she can relate to properly. So I arranged for a meeting.

On top of all the plusses, this lawyer does home visits! How good can it get? She came over on Saturday at 11am, and we chatted round the kitchen table. She’ll email us draft wills and we’ll go forward from there.

It’s all really positive. The wills are only £60 each too.

She talked down being an executor or co-executor as we are not terribly complicated – but offered full support to my wife (or I suppose myself) as required – that might be even better.

In the meeting we talked about what would happen with our children should my wife and I come to a sticky end. My family is really not in the equation – too old for one thing, but my wife’s parents are 70, and her only sister lives hours away and hundreds of miles – which would uproot the children.

My wife’s father remarried a woman 23 years his junior, so I took the opportunity to have a chat with her (one on one) about this morbid topic – and, to my surprise,  she was “flattered” and “honoured” to be considered to bring up the children in the sad event of our joint demise.

It has to be said that if my wife and I died today, it would only be for 7 or so years, so it is not really a commitment per se. But it is really nice to know we’re covered. I even asked the unthinkable – would you still feel the same if something happened to your husband? After all, the oldest and infirmest person here is my father-in-law… and she still said she would be delighted to oblige us.

This is a great relief – this would provide stability and continuity to the children. Of course, it is an unlikely event – but that’s what contingencies are all about, and so we feel a lot happier that we have an idea of the what-ifs.

The Execution

It’s easy enough to die, the rest is where the trouble lies. The dead person is referred to as “The testator”, without a will, the personal representative is called “The Administrator” and with a will, the “Executor”.

The executor of anyone’s last will and testament is pretty scary – my Executor has to make sure that my last wishes are granted with regards to the disposition of all my assets, property and possessions (estate). They are accountable for any mistakes made.

“Being named as Executor in a Will can bring with it complicated, difficult and time-consuming duties which often take up to a year to complete.

It is crucial to get everything right because the Executor is legally responsible for administering the estate in accordance with both the terms of the Will, and the law. An Executor is responsible for everything they do or fail to do, in respect of the estate.

Acting as the Executor of a Will can be a very daunting prospect because the role carries with it a considerable amount legal, tax and administrative responsibilities. An Executor’s responsibilities last for the duration of the administration of the estate and can also carry on into any ongoing Trust.”
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The law requires that every Executor act in good faith to fulfil their duties with the utmost honest and diligence (fiduciary duty). The Executor is not entitled to any proceeds, but can charge a fee.

My Administrator or the Executor of my will is responsible for making sure that any debts and creditors that I might have at the time of death are paid off, including fees, charges, taxes and the cost of my funeral – and then that any remaining money or property is distributed according to any wishes I may have stipulated in my will/ trusts.

I don’t think dying intestate is the best option, so I need to draw up a will and think of someone to be my executor.

I have rooted about online, and it seems quite onerous to be an Executor. I wouldn’t fancy the job!

  • First of all, they will have to decide whether court is required to prove that the will is valid;
  • Then they have to apply to the court for the Grant of Representation – which is the confirmation of legal authority to administer the estate.This is called the Grant of Probate (but if there is no valid Will, this is called Letters of Administration).
  • Then they have to find all my assets somehow;
  • They usually have to set up a new special bank account in the name of the estate to make paying off debts to creditors easier;
  • The funds in the estate’s bank account can be used for making mortgage, insurance and other recurring payments that need to be paid during the administration of the will. They are in charge of all that;
  • Keep estate accounts;
  • They have to keep all my assets safe until the will is executed;
  • They have to identify and deal with any valid claims against the estate.
  • Then they will have to decide which of my assets should be sold to be divided up among the beneficiaries;
  • They have to complete and submit the Inheritance Tax (IHT) return and pay any Inheritance Tax owed;
  • Complete the relevant Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax returns and pay any outstanding tax owed;
  • They would have to find – and contact – all the people named in my will to tell them and then to make sure they get their inheritance;
  • They would have to find all my investments, bank accounts, credit cards, memberships, accounts, state benefits, etc – and cancel/ notify them all of my death – and settle everything;
  • Property that is given through a will should be given as it is recorded. However, if there is other property that is not named in the will, the executor needs to check with a lawyer about what the law states should happen.

This is a LOT of work – and it’s responsible and serious, even with a guy like me with simple affairs. I don’t know if it is the best idea to burden my widow with all that as well as funeral arrangements, grief and dealing with family during bereavement.

“Anyone aged 18 or above can be an executor of your will. There’s no rule against people named in your will as beneficiaries being your executors. In fact this is very common.

“Many people choose their spouse or civil partner or their children to be an executor. But that doesn’t mean they have to write them out of the will.

“Up to four executors can act at a time, but they all have to act jointly so it might not be practical to appoint that many people.

“It’s a good idea, though, to choose two executors in case one of them dies before you do. For example, you might choose one family member and one professional, like a solicitor or accountant.

“Professional executors tend to charge, but it can be helpful to have someone involved with specialist knowledge. You can appoint substitute executors to cover the situation if your first choice dies before you…

“Choosing a solicitor as one of your executors makes a lot of sense, especially if sorting out your things is likely to be complicated – they’re experienced at the job and know their way around legal, tax and property issues.

“If the financial side of your will is especially complicated, it could be a good idea to choose a bank or accountant as one of your executors.

“Of course, these professional specialists will charge you for their work. This happens in one of two ways:

  • By sending a bill for their time when your things have all been sorted out
  • By taking a share of the total value of your estate – this will be written into your will

“Make sure you understand how your solicitor, bank or accountant will charge for being an executor and how much each option will cost before you commit yourself.

“As a last resort, there’s a government official called the Public Trustee who will be your executor if there’s really nobody else who can do it.

“The most common situation where the Public Trustee will step in is if your will leaves everything to one person and that person can’t act as executor himself or herself – for example, a child or an adult whose disability means they are incapable of managing financial affairs.”
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So far, it seems, I need to put on my thinking cap about who to appoint as Executors and Trustees. Just now I am leaning away from burdening my family. It may be additional cost, but perhaps a lawyer would be a good idea.

It seems to make sense at this time to have a lawyer on board to put together a will and perhaps also look at sharing the executor role and possibly act as a trustee too.