The danger of DIY Wills

Errors in Wills are common and can lead to disputes which result in considerable legal costs taken from the estate. Find out why a DIY Will may not be a good option for you.

DIY Wills have been blamed for the sharp increase in the number of contested estates across the UK. Indeed, attempting to write your own Will may lead to devastating consequences. For instance, unclear clauses may see your relatives turn against one another or a loved one may choose to contest the validity of your Will. Sorting out arguments may result in costly legal action which will reduce the money in the estate.

To highlight the dangers of DIY Wills, our Wills, Trust and Probate team at Foys Solicitors shares the pitfalls to avoid and advises you to think twice before opting to do it yourself.

What is a Will, and why should a solicitor help me write one?

A Will is an important legal document, encompassing how you want your estate (property, possessions and finances) to be distributed among your family members and/or charitable organisations that are close to your heart after you have died. This legal document includes every asset you have, your beneficiaries and most importantly, the name of your executor(s) who will manage the distribution of everything that you have left behind.

Getting a solicitor to help you write one means your Will is well-considered and error-free. Here are a few scenarios where a solicitor can help and make sure your Will is watertight.

Beware that witnesses cannot benefit from your Will

The witnesses of your Will (and their spouses) cannot benefit from your Will. If a witness (or the spouse) is a beneficiary, the Will is valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit.

You suspect some family members will want to make a claim

Divorce and remarry are now common occurrences and many of us have blended families with multiple step-siblings and stepchildren. It is not easy to please all and if you suspect a family member may challenge the validity of your Will when the time comes, make sure you get a solicitor to help you create an error-free Will and minimise the stress your loved ones have to endure later.

You share a property with someone who is not your spouse

This is actually more common than one would expect – you may have purchased an investment property with a friend, helped a relative to buy a house and pay for the mortgages – as long as you share a property with someone who is not your spouse, get in touch to create a Will that protects your interest and your loved ones.

Other scenarios

When there is a business involved, when you want to set-up a trust, when you have property in another country, when you retire in another country but have property in the UK, when you wish to make provision for a dependent who is unable to care for themselves – these are some scenarios when a solicitor can help you create a watertight Will.

The dangers of DIY Wills

Without the guidance of an experienced solicitor, a DIY Will is likely to contain mistakes or omissions, leaving your family to argue over your possessions and property.

Remember, when disputes happen, the legal costs are likely to be paid for by your estate, meaning the values of your estate will reduce. Do not let a disgruntled relative keep your heirs and loved ones from the inheritance – you can minimise this risk by not using a DIY Will and making mistakes.

To write a Will, you must be over 18 and have mental capacity to understand the outcome of the document you are writing and signing. If you have been diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease, it is wise to contact us as soon as possible. Doing so will allow us to get medical evidence to say you understand what you are doing and we can help you create a Will that avoids future complications or doubts.

Also, a DIY Will is unlikely to accommodate the changing of your circumstances. For instance, you have children from your previous marriage and you are about to remarry – in this instance, it is wise to provide for them in a new Will to minimise the chance of them being disinherited in the future.

Common mistakes on a DIY Will

1. Incorrectly signed and witnessed

Your Will needs to be witnessed by two people who are present at the time of your signing for it to be legally binding. These witnesses must be UK citizens, 18 years or older and not be named as beneficiaries in your Will or married to someone who is.

2. Omitted assets or debts

Forgetting to mention assets in your Will means your heirs are not likely to get the amount specified. Also, it is important to consider debts like mortgages and how they may reduce the values of your estate.

Pecuniary and residuary legacies

If you have £100,000 in the bank, you may say your sister will get £20,000 (a specific sum of money which is considered a pecuniary legacy) and your child will get the remaining £80,000 (a residuary legacy). But by the time you die, the money in the bank may be just £20,000. This means your sister gets £20,000 and your child is left with nothing because residuary legacies are paid after pecuniary legacies.

Out of date

A new marriage will invalid any existing Will in England and Wales. Also, your named executor(s) or beneficiaries may have died before you.

Hand-written amendments

You cannot amend your Will after it has been signed and witnessed. The only way you can change a Will is by making an official alteration called a codicil which must be signed and witnessed.

Inappropriate executors

An executor will be considered inappropriate if they are under 18, do not feel capable of accepting the responsibility or live overseas.

What happens if your DIY Will is considered invalid?

If a Will is considered invalid, then the Rules of Intestacy apply. In this case, only a set of individuals will be entitled to inherit your estate and the order is as follows:

  • Your spouse or civil partner
  • Children, grandchildren, great grandchildren
  • Parents
  • Brothers and sisters (or their children)
  • Half-blood step brothers and sisters (or their children)
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and aunts (or their children)
  • Half-blood step uncles and aunts (or their children)
  • The Crown

These may not be the people you have in mind as your heirs. Also, as the rules of intestacy do not acknowledge your unmarried partner, stepchildren, in-laws, friends and organisations you care about, they will not be able to cherish your legacy as a result.

By employing a dedicated and experienced solicitor to assist you with writing your Will, you can ensure that this will not happen. At Foys, our solicitors have decades of experience with Will writing, and you can rest assured that your wishes after death will be respected.

What does writing a Will entail?

The legal and correct process of writing a Will does not need to be complex or lengthy. With Foys, we will guide you every step of the way and make sure that your Will is well-considered and error-free, thereby preventing any misunderstandings and disputes among your relatives.

A valid Will needs to:

  • Be in writing, signed by you and witnessed by two people.
  • Have been written by you while you had the mental capacity to make and understand the effect of it.
  • Be made by you voluntarily, and without any pressure or coercion from another person.
  • Be completely free of errors and transparent as to what your wishes are.

Foys Solicitors is trusted with Will writing

With the assistance of our dedicated Will and Probate solicitors, the experience of creating your Will is made significantly straightforward and affordable. We offer competitive fixed standard fees for our services, safeguarding your wishes and putting you and your family at ease.

We do not want legal fees to deter you from protecting your interests in the future, so we offer a FREE initial consultation. This allows us to determine the best course of action and understand how we can help you.

To get in touch simply fill out our Online Form or call your local Foys Solicitors office:

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Please note that although we may use the word solicitor, your case could be carried out by a legal advisor, legal executive or paralegal depending on the nature of the case.

This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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