The problem with DIY Wills by Roger Crouch
A client recently presented to me his relative’s homemade Will: there was one glaring problem. The Will, written in beautiful handwriting, had not been witnessed and, therefore, in law, was invalid. The relative died, therefore, intestate (without a Will) and the intestacy rules applied meaning part of the estate passed to relatives the deceased did not want to benefit. This salutary tale serves as reminder of the danger of clients writing their own Wills. I always explain that, being clumsy and lacking suitable skills, I would not attempt to do the plumbing on my own and my best bet, to avoid flooding, is to instruct a suitably qualified plumber.
Making a Will can be a complex process and seemingly minor matters, such as appointing executors and ensuring the formalities of making a Will are followed, can easily be overlooked. Without expert advice, anyone is prone to making mistakes or omissions that can cause problems further down the line. Certain words used out of context can cause confusion. Inheritance tax implications (particularly where part of the estate is given to charity) of particular words may not be properly considered.
In recent years there has been an increase in probate disputes. There are a variety of reasons for this: more valuable estates, second marriages, overseas assets, and more complex family structures. In these circumstances, where people are more likely to enter into disputes over estates, a DIY Will presents additional risks. Ambiguous and unclear intentions can easily lead to arguments and disputes between beneficiaries. Contesting the terms of a Will inevitably causes stress, time and expenses with many complex cases taking years to resolve.
A professionally written Will is not expensive in comparison and will ensure that your Will is professionally written and other matters such as trusts and tax planning are considered. While the desire to have a Will written on the cheap is understandable, the potential ramifications for those named in the Will are best avoided.
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The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.