The need for clarity in Wills
Updated: Apr 8
“Equity”. “Fiduciary position”. “Donatio mortis causa”.
One of the most common reasons why people are put off from even considering talking about Wills is the jargon involved. From unpronounceable words to Latin phrases, ‘legalese’ has discredited the law on Estate Planning as an unattractive and esoteric subject. But fear no more, as we guide you back to the land of the known… or at least the understandable.
‘Legalese’ is a term used to describe the formal and technical language or 'jargon' used in legal documents.
As an important legal document, Wills are no stranger to the perplexing language of ‘legalese’.
However, the resulting effect is that people are put off, not just from writing their Will, but even just talking about their Wills.
However, as we will see, Will writing and discussions about the same, in addition to Estate Planning, Estate Administration and Probate, can be understandable, comprehensible and fun.
Okay, so maybe not fun – but at least you will be able to confidently talk about Wills and understand the document which determines the legacy you leave.
The current status
A shocking 5.4 million people in the UK have “no idea” how to make a Will.
They don’t know where to start.
An unhelpful factor to this is the widespread use of ‘legalese’ by Will writers and solicitors alike in this area.
We’ve all been in that situation. You’re asked a question and you don’t know the answer, but there is a voice inside you which compels you to give an answer, any answer, because you just can’t bear saying, “I don’t know”.
Or, when you are around your peers or your mates in the pub and want to show off your linguistic skills by replacing simple everyday words with more impressive synonyms.
“This risotto is tasty” becomes “This risotto is delectable”.
“I have a bad headache” becomes “I have excruciating cephalalgia”. (okay, bit of a stretch).
“Joey Tribbiani” becomes “Baby kangaroo Tribbiani” (for you Friends fans out there).
It may be because you’re excited to test out your new word of the day or you simply want to sound smarter.
Lawyers are no different.
As if their honours degrees and slick suits aren’t enough, many lawyers feel the need to showcase their knowledge and expertise by using words that only the few will understand as if to verify to you that they know something.
In fact, they went one step further and just created a whole new secret language.
We don’t stand for this and this goes against one of our core principles.
For us, it is not enough that we just simply talk to you about Wills or write and store it for you.
We want to teach you so we can remove the stigma attached to Wills law as an enigmatic puzzle, enabling you to understand what is going on and be confident about the Will you have.
Legalese is everywhere - even in our everyday contracts.
If we’re being honest, we've all told the little ‘white lie’ when it comes to reading Terms and Conditions.
But if you did read them, you will find yourself drowning in a pool of ‘legalese’ and will have a hard time trying to navigate you through this ‘land of the unknown’.
Equally, ‘legalese’ finds itself cropping up in the courtrooms as well. Why?
As Harry S. Truman said:
There is a sad and often terrifying reality to this situation.
I have been instructed before by many clients who have informed me that they have a current Will they would like to update.
I always ask for a copy of the Will to be updated so I can consider this against the new instructions.
Worryingly, when the clients tell me how they believe their estate is to pass through their current Will, I read the Will to discover that it does not do what they want it to do.
Frighteningly, when I ask them what they understand the Will to say, as I go through certain clauses, they say they have no idea.
This always concerned me because the clients had trusted their solicitor to reflect their instructions in their Will, but this was not done.
Equally, the lawyer took no steps to ensure that the client understood the document because, had they done so, the client would not have been happy with the drafted copy.
Indeed, my revelations always worried my clients and I made sure to update their Will in a comprehensible and user-friendly format, where no thesaurus is required to decode the provisions.
Equally, I explain each clause in a summary-email accompanying the draft Will, and welcome any questions or requests for further information.
Once drafted, your Will is your Will.
You have taken the time and effort to have this document drafted and it will be the instructions responsible for leaving your legacy and ensuring your wishes are respected and your loved ones are provided for.
Thus, it is imperative that you understand the provisions contained therein and are confident it does exactly what you want it to do.
We refrain from using legal jargon in our discussions with you.
We explain any relevant technical terms in a comprehensible and approachable way because our mission is to ensure you understand your Will.
We respect you and wouldn’t lead you astray. Any complex questions will be researched at no extra cost to you, using our extensive legal research databases and libraries.
When drafting, we make our Wills simple but effective. They do the job and no more and no less.
We keep our prices reasonable and competitive; however, many lawyers often charge more because of the unnecessary length or apparent complexity of the drafting requirements.
However, simply using legal jargon and lengthy, confusing paragraphs can do more harm than good for your Will as they can draw the focus away from what the clause is intended to do.