DIY Wills and What Can Go Wrong


Liz Fyfe

With the current national lockdown coming to an end and as we re-enter the three tier system we continue to receive an increased number of enquiries from people who want to make or update their Wills.

Unfortunately the lockdown and three tier restrictions may encourage people to take a DIY approach to their Wills in order to reduce their contact with others, but this may have unintended adverse consequences. Figures from the Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) suggest that poorly drafted or ineffective DIY wills are to blame for a prolonged probate ordeal for 38,000 families a year. Most of these problems could have been avoided if legal advice was sought in the first instance.

What can go wrong?

The requirements for making a valid Will are strict and as professionals we hear all too often about homemade wills which fail for simple reasons which could have been avoided if legal advice had been taken.

Common problems are that the Wills are drafted too narrowly or too broadly, and therefore they do not have the desired effect. Failure to sever the tenancy on any joint property which can result in property passing by survivorship rather than through the deceased’s Will. The Will is witnessed by someone who is legally unable to do so without invalidating part or all of the Will i.e being witnessed by a beneficiary. The Will can be inadvertently drafted in a tax inefficient way, or would have been more suitable if it had incorporated a trust.

These are all things that a Solicitor will consider when advising you on the drafting and execution of your Wills.

Why use a solicitor?

Solicitors are regulated by the Law Society and backed by insurance so if there is a problem with your Will the cost of fixing it should not (circumstances depending) fall to your estate to pay. Solicitors can also advise you in relation to estate planning during your lifetime, the effect Inheritance Tax may have on your estate and also consider care home fee planning. Solicitors are trained to look at the broad picture for their clients and will be able to consider other issues which you may not have thought about.

When do I need to get legal advice?

You should consider amending or making a Will anytime your circumstances change significantly however, advice should always be sought in the following circumstances:

  • If you are co-habiting but are not married;
  • If you are going through a divorce;
  • If you have any business or foreign assets;
  • If you are planning on disinheriting any of your children;
  • If any of the beneficiaries are vulnerable, for example if they lack capacity to deal with their finances or are minors;
  • If you are in a second/third/fourth marriage and you wish to protect your assets for your children from a previous marriage;
  • If you have assets in excess of £500,000 (or £1 million as a couple).

This is not an exhaustive list and if you are in any doubt you should obtain legal advice.

DIY Wills are more expensive than you think.

Whilst paying a professional to draft your Will might seem expensive, the reality is that a poorly drafted Will means that legal advice will almost certainly be required to deal with your estate when you pass away.

The costs to your estate are likely to be around at least double what they would have been if the Will had been drafted in a way which fits your circumstances. Therefore, it is actually more cost effective to pay to have your Will drafted properly in your lifetime rather than leave it to your executors or beneficiaries to deal with the problems once you have passed away. For example, paying £100 for a DIY Will and £10,000 in probate legal fees adds up to far more than a professionally drafted Will and the average £3000 in probate legal fees. It will also save your family or the people you wish to benefit a considerable amount of worry and anxiety and should make the process of administering your estate a much smoother one.

If you wish to discuss making a Will then please contact us at any of our three Yorkshire offices.

☎️ Call our Wakefield office on 01924 290 029
☎️ Call our Garforth office on 0113 246 4423
☎️ Call our Ossett office on 01924 586 466

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