A recent case has emphasised the potential issues and pitfalls that can arise from homemade DIY wills as there are no lawyers involved in the Will drafting process.
In the case of Henrietta Ingram & Anor v Simon Timothy Abraham & Anor, Joanne Abraham passed away in 2021. She left behind two children, Henrietta and Tom and two brothers, Simon and Nicholas.
Ms Abrahams made a Will in 2008 which left her estate to be divided equally between Henrietta and Tom. Ms Abrahams later amended her Will in 2019. The amended Will was made using an online Will template and was drafted by Simon (the first Defendant and her brother), leaving her residuary estate wholly to himself. The Will was prepared with no professional guidance or direction from a solicitor and Ms Abrahams did not seek any legal advice before or after executing her amended Will. After her death, the children disputed her amended Will on the basis that they believed the Will did not align with her wishes and intentions.
A DIY Will can end up costing you more than the costs of using a Solicitor
The Court found that Ms Abrahams amended her Will and had provided her entire estate to Simon with the sole intention that “Simon would inherit her estate to distribute it as per her orally and repeatedly expressed wishes to divide it fairly” between (her children) Tom and Henrietta. The Court found that Mrs Abrahams entrusted Simon to “look after Tom and Henrietta rather than finalising things in the Will”. The amended Will did not provide for her children and provided a gift of her estate outright to Simon directly. The Judge concluded that this was not the intentions of Mrs Abrahams and she had not understood the effect of the amended Will and her brother, Simon had contributed to that misunderstanding. This led to lengthy expensive and emotional litigation which would have been entirely avoidable should a solicitor have been consulted.
A DIY Will could be deemed invalid by a Court
If Ms Abrahams had visited a solicitor, the solicitor would have likely suggested a discretionary trust – a flexible arrangement that gives the Trustees both discretion and control over how best to use the trust assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Because no solicitor was involved in the drafting process, the Court found that Ms Abrahams did not understand what was in her amended Will when she signed it, nor did she understand what its effect would be and therefore the Will was found invalid therefore finding that the 2008 Will should be admitted to probate. This case is another very good example of why it is best to instruct a solicitor to draft your Will and why online templates are risky!
In this article by This is Money, their investigation found "a string of potential pitfalls with popular DIY will packs and online services" and repported that "The DIY wills were said to be riddled with risk, while the online option came with extra charges that could cost your estate thousands of pounds after your death".