Do You Really Want A Plain English Will?

If I had a dollar for every client who has asked me to “Please just write my will in plain English Fiona,” I’d have a few extra dollars a week to run through my accounting system.  

Plain English

"Whilst the language your will is written in doesn’t need to be decipherable to the untrained eye, the language you as the will maker and your lawyer communicate in is of the utmost importance..."

When people decide they want to update or reinvent their will one of the first things they do is go digging around in the bottom filing cabinet drawer for their previous will.

They pull out the envelope and invariably discover one of two things;


There’s no will in there.  Just a booklet that should have been filled out to say where their will is actually being held.  For most people, it's been so long since they wrote their will they have absolutely no idea where their will is actually held. Which means it would be a Christmas miracle their executors would ever manage to hunt it down.

Good thing they didn’t die!

Or TWO - the more common scenario:

They find a copy of their will and start reading their historical wishes, wondering how many would be still relevant.  Then, about 2 clauses in they throw their hands up in despair, having discovered nothing more than reading Legalese is like trying to decipher a foreign language.


Deciphering and understanding your own wishes seems like a pretty baseline deliverable to me, which is why I completely understand why people then jump on the phone and ask me for a will written in a way they'll understand.

But is a Plain English Will really what you need..?

Here's the deal...

Wills are written in Legalese and not plain English, because wills are not written for people. They’re written for lawyers.

And yes, I’m bravely forging ahead with the thinly veiled suggestion lawyers aren’t actually people! (I’m joking of course. Kind of.)

Your will is not a creative writing project. It’s not an easily digestible quick read. It’s not designed to be read by you, or anyone else who communicates in normal, everyday, plain English.

Your will is a legal document. Full stop. End of story.  

Plain English wills, despite being easier for the everyday Joe to interpret, are notorious for falling down like a house of cards at the slightest hint of legal pressure being put on them.

Because plain English wills, more often than not, lack the legal scaffolding they require to stand up to legal scruitiny.

Sure, the first purpose of your will is to communicate what you wish to happen to your assets when you die and you should be able to understand what you're agreeing to (both as a will maker and as a beneficiary or executor).

However, the second purpose of your will is to communicate your wishes to the Supreme Court.  And the only language the ihabitants of the Supreme Court speak is Legalese.

Now nobody starts out to write a will thinking it will go up against the scrutiny of the Supreme Court (especially not me because incase you haven't picked up on it already, I'm not a fan of fronting up to other lawyers) but like it or not the only KPI of a legal document is that it will stand up to the ultimate legal scrutiny.

For many lawyers that’s ALL they think about when drawing up a will.  What you want is barely a consideration - it’s all about arse covering and box ticking so if your will goes to litigation it will pass muster.

It's not unusual to hear stories about families and will makers who have been blindsided by a dodgy clause that's been hidden under reams of impossible to decipher Legalese.  Most people don't discover them until it's too late.

Does that mean you don't have a right to know what's in your will?

“So I shouldn’t expect to actually know what my will says….?” Simon quite rightly grilled me when we met a few weeks ago.

Nothing could be further from the truth, for you or Simon.

Whilst the language your will is written in doesn’t need to be decipherable to the untrained eye, the language you as the will maker and your lawyer communicate in is of the utmost importance (at least it is to me).

It's no secret that I like a chat.  And you'll be pleased to know I like to have my chats in plain English. Here's how it works when it comes to will making;

We have a plain English conversation about what you want to happen after your death; what you’re trying to achieve, what you hope for, what you want to avoid, who your trying to punish or reward, who or what you’ve forgotten to tell people, where you want your money, your memories and your stuff to go…

Questions feature prominently in plain English conversations - which is great because asking questions means I get all the information that’s important.

I then take our plain English conversation and I put my interpreter hat on.  I take all your information away and turn it into Legalese (as if by magic, but not!).  TaDa!  We have a will that's based on plain English but written in a way that will hold up to legal scruitny.

Sometimes we have to go backwards and forwards to find just the right Legalese phrasing to fully paint the picture of what it is you want to do.

Sometimes you communicate with me something you want to do, and rather than just sticking that in your will and dealing with the fall out when it doesn’t stand up to interrogation, I interpret back the other way and tell you it’s not legally possible to do achieve the thing you want.

Most importantly once your will is written I go through it with you and interpret every single clause so you can share it with your family in a way they will also understand.

No confusing language. No hidden clauses. No secrets.

Strong Wills are written in Legalese but are built on conversations in plain English.

Click the link below to book an appointment to talk in English and create your own strong will that will stand up to scrutiny.

Brave is kind.

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