There’s nothing which makes me feel more like an adult than planning for my family’s future. This is particularly true when having to consider what’ll happen to my loved ones left behind should I die. I don’t plan on meeting my untimely end anytime soon, but it’s going to happen to us all at some point and it’s important to think about it. Life’s a bitch – screwing your eyes shut and sticking your fingers in your ears isn’t going to make the reality go away.
I like to think that I’m pretty on the ball with all of this ‘adult stuff’ . You know the kind of thing I mean – managing your finances, savings for the kids, paying into a pension, having life insurance etc. However, confession time, I’ve stupidly let something very important slip – our wills.
It started out well as the missus and I arranged a joint will when we purchased our house 10 or so years ago. We weren’t married at the time, so this was done to effectively link ourselves together and leave the house and our money to the other should the worst happen.
However, since then, things have changed – we’ve got engaged, got married, got a dog and had two kids. Despite all of these milestones happening in the last decade, our will remained untouched and drastically outdated. We’d always meant to update it, but just hadn’t got around to it.
Whether it was laziness, the hassle of going to the solicitors, not wanting to spend £200 on a piece of paper, not thinking we’d die yet or a combination of them all, we’ve stupidly kicked that proverbial can down the road for way too long. It’s just been too easy to put off.
Then things changed. After my dad passed away last summer, wills have been on my mind pretty much every day as I’ve been dealing with his estate on behalf of my mum. Just like us, they had a will which they’d been planning on updating, however they too hadn’t got around to it. Then my dad died unexpectedly and it made everything a bit too real.
Luckily, there were no issues as my mum was still listed as the main beneficiary and executor, but things could have been more complex as a lot of it was out of date. As such, once I’d got all of my dad’s stuff sorted and we’d finished our recent building work, I made a promise to myself that I’d get our wills updated – something which I’m happy to report has now been accomplished thanks to the wonders of the internet!
Review: Making An Online Will With Guardian Angel
In early January, I received an email from online will writing company Guardian Angel asking if I wanted to try out their service and create a will. Based on the situation outlined above, I took this as a sign of divine intervention and happily took them up on the offer!
As the outdated will we currently had in place was done face-to-face at a solicitor’s office, I had no prior experience of creating an online will – in fact, I didn’t really even know it was a thing. As everything would be done remotely with only a screen, keyboard, and mouse for company, my main concern was whether it would be seen as a “proper will” if done online.
However, having done some research about online wills and Guardian Angel, I was more than confident that they could provide what was needed, namely a legally binding, simple will which clearly outlined my wishes should I kick the bucket.
The overall Guardian Angel process sounded simple and I was keen to give it a go to see whether it actually was. My understanding was that using an interactive online tool, I’d select and type in the answers I’d normally provide to a solicitor about myself, my family and my wishes upon death.
This info would then be checked by an in-house expert, merged with a specially created will template, then emailed out to me as a bespoke will. I’d then be able to print my new will and make it legally binding by signing it in front of two witnesses. If this was correct, it’d cost a fraction of the price at £90, only take 15 minutes of effort on my behalf and then be in my inbox within a week.
So with that in mind, I visited the Guardian Angel website and set about the task. To start the online will writing process, I was first asked three questions about my relationship status, number of children and whether I lived in England / Wales.
I was then invited to setup an account with my name, email address and a password. Once done, I was taken into ‘My Will’, which is kind of the main dashboard for your account. In here, I could see six compulsory sections – and two optional – that needed to be completed before my will could be submitted for checking. I felt that everything was laid out clearly and the sections helped to break the overall process down into manageable chunks.
The compulsory sections within ‘My Will’ comprised of ‘About You’, ‘Your Family’, ‘Guardians’, ‘Your Financial Assets’, ‘Divide Your Estate’ and ‘Executors’. The two optional ones were ‘Your Funeral Wishes’ and ‘Gifts’. By completing each of these sections, I would be providing Guardian Angel with everything needed so they could create my personal will.
To begin, I simply clicked on the ‘Get Started’ button which is present in each of the section. This then took me to the next page(s) where I could fill in the answers to the questions being asked. For instance, I provided details of each family member in the ‘Your Family’ section, as well as listing any property, life insurance, pensions etc in the ‘Your Financial Assets’ section.
As I continued to populate the info, I found that the later sections remembered and displayed the stuff I’d previously inputted. For example, when in the ‘Divide Your Estate’ section, it remembered every person I’d entered and allowed me to choose from them (or add new people) when deciding how I wanted my estate to be split. Things like this really helped to save time and reduce errors.
Once the six compulsory sections were complete, the message on the dashboard changed to inform me that I was now able to purchase and send the will for checking. Of course, from here, you can also complete the optional ‘Your Funeral Wishes’ and ‘Gifts’ sections, however I chose not to because I had nothing specific to include.
At this point, it’s obviously important to check the information you’ve added. Handily, I found that the ‘My Will’ dashboard allowed me to do this quickly and easily as it displayed the key info in each of the sections. If you spot anything not quite right or wish to change anything, then the Edit button is your friend here. It’s also worthwhile saying that you can save and come back to it at a later point if, for instance, you are unsure of someone’s address or date of birth.
Once I was totally happy with everything, I clicked on the ‘Purchase And Send For Checking’ button which took me through to Checkout. I’d been given a code to get my will for free as part of this review, but you’d usually pop in your card details and pay at this point.
For the £90 one-time cost, you get a PDF copy of your expertly-checked will and have it registered with the National Will Register. This is about half the cost of what we paid for our will all that time ago, so it felt very good value for money. FYI, if you use code DADVENTURE30 at checkout, you can get 30% off the cost. You’re welcome!
In addition, you’ll also automatically be subscribed to the update service which allows, among other things, unlimited updates to your will and the storage of a physical copy of your will. This add-on service costs £10 per year, is free for the first year and can be cancelled at any point. Considering £10 per year covers any changes to your will, I thought that this was a good idea and was a lot cheaper than having to buy a new will whenever a change is needed.
It had taken me no longer than 20 minutes from the start to the end of the process. Not only was this much quicker than when we got a will in the past, but it was less hassle and I was able to do it whilst sat in my boxers on the settee. I doubt I’d have got through the door to the solicitor’s office dressed like that.
The next part of the process involved waiting for the will to be checked by their in-house experts. They say that this can take up to seven days, however I’d heard back from them within a speedy two. I’d submitted the will on Wednesday morning, then a member of the team had emailed me on Friday querying a possible error.
I’d like to say that I purposefully made a mistake (I’d not inserted all of the post code), but sadly it was just incompetence. It did demonstrate perfectly though that all wills are checked by Guardian Angel and mistakes like this are highlighted. I logged back in, made the change and resubmitted my will for checking – a few hours later, I received another email with my completed will attached.
I opened the PDF and had a read through. As hoped, it looked like a will, read like a will and had all of the information I provided correctly populated. It also included information about what to do next, namely check it, print it and, in the presence of two witnesses, sign it, along with said witnesses, to make it legally binding.
Once done, the final step is storing it somewhere safe so that it can be found if the worst should happen. I’ll be storing mine at home, but other paid for options exist such as with a solicitor, with the Probate Service or with Guardian Angel directly. Wherever it goes, the main thing is that someone knows where it is and can get access to it.
All in all, I was very happy with Guardian Angel and their will writing service. I ended the process with a legally binding, simple will which included everything I needed covered to look after my family should I die. It was a really simple online process that broke everything down step-by-step, clearly signposted the information needed and helped to reduce errors.
Just to highlight though, online wills won’t be for everyone. If your will is complex – such as you live with someone but aren’t married, have assets abroad or have a large estate – then it’s probably best to employ a trained solicitor. However, if, like us, your wishes are simple and your financial situation isn’t complicated, then an online will is definitely an option to consider.
Speaking more broadly, what I’ve learnt over the last six months is that if you die, you’re not going to be the one who’s affected. It’s your family and friends who are left behind who have to deal with everything. Grief is hard enough on it’s own, let alone throwing in the logistics of funeral planning or managing the estate of the person who has died.
So, the way I view it, it’s hugely important to have an up-to-date will outlining your wishes. It’s not for your benefit, it’s to make things easier for those left to deal with the bereavement. The whole process of dealing with someone’s estate is complicated and tedious enough – it doesn’t need to be made harder by the absence of a will because you’ve not thought about it or continually put it off.
So, if you don’t already have a will in place, please, please, please get that rectified as soon as possible.