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In the past it has been common for people to prepare their Wills using their banks and, in doing so, appointed their bank as their executor (the person to administer their Wills).  However, many banks are beginning to move away from the Wills and Probate area and, as they do, are using other companies to undertake their Will preparation and the administration of Wills.

Recently, HSBC have agreed a contract to sell their Wills and Probate services to Simplify Channel Limited (Simplify).  In doing so, HSBC are asking clients to sign a Codicil to their Wills removing HSBC as their executors and appointing Simplify.  We understand this is a pre-prepared Codicil which is being sent to HSBC clients to sign and will take effect if the sale completes as planned on 30th October 2015.

Should I just sign a pre-prepared Codicil?

No, firstly you should have the terms of the Codicil checked carefully, but you should also use the opportunity to review your Will.  Many of our clients consider their Wills on a regular basis, usually every 3 to 5 years or as and when their circumstances change, for example, when you move house, marry or enter a civil partnership, have children and as your children themselves go through life.

Should I appoint a professional executor, such as a Solicitor or Bank?

Whether to appoint a Solicitor or Bank will depend on your individual needs.  For the majority of clients, family members will be the most suitable and cost effective solution.  During the preparation of your Will, your solicitor should consider your family circumstances and the complexity of your Will, so that they can properly advise you about your options for the appointment of executors.

If I appoint a professional what information do I need to consider?

The professional should provide you with information on their services and fees so that you can make an informed decision as to whether to appoint a family member, a friend or a professional as your executor.  If you do appoint a professional consider whether they are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Financial Services Authority or another regulated body, as these organisations ensure that professionals are suitably regulated.

I would like to appoint a family member.  Can they seek advice on administering my Will?

Of course; your family member may seek advice and assistance at the time of administering your Will from a Solicitor of their choice.  They may wish for the Solicitor to assist just in obtaining the Grant of Probate or alternatively to assist in the full administration of your estate, but either way they should be given the choice.

I have received a letter from my bank asking me to sign a Codicil, what should I do?

Seek independent legal advice.  Both the wording of the Codicil and any terms and conditions should be checked carefully.

If you do decide to sign the Codicil, remember there are strict rules on how you should sign the Codicil and who can witness the Codicil to ensure the document is valid.  Witnesses should be independent and not family members as it could have an effect on any gifts they may receive under your Will.

For more advice on the preparation of Wills please contact a member of our Wills, Trusts and Probate Department.