Having a Will in place ensures that your loved ones inherit your estate in the way in which you intended. Simply having a Will is however not always sufficient and it is therefore really important to be aware of the dangers of a poorly drafted DIY Will. It is very tempting to quickly head into your local stationers and write out your Will yourself but there can be some devastating unforeseen consequences of doing this.
We have put together some FAQs to help you decide whether it is worth taking a risk on a DIY Will.
Can you write a Will yourself?
Anyone can write their own Will however there are a number of issues that can arise which could result in your Will being considered invalid and worthless. It is very easy to fall foul of any number of the formalities that are needed for Wills to be considered valid.
A Will dictates how your entire estate is to be distributed – your property, financial assets, even your business. You have worked hard your entire working life and you want to ensure that your loved ones are left behind with the profits from your efforts. Whilst you can legally write your own Will, would you want to risk your hard-earned estate being left up to chance?
Why are DIY Wills so cheap?
DIY Will packages are cheaper because they are often simple templates which you use to complete the blanks yourself. There is no professional advising you whether what you have written in these templates is going to be considered valid. A solicitor will not only ensure your Will is valid from a drafting perspective, but they will also be advising you on important matters to consider. These include the consequences of your decisions, both in terms of the impact on your beneficiaries inheriting from your estate but also financial implications such as inheritance tax consequences.
What problems can arise from a DIY Will?
It is vital that a Will complies with various formalities in order for the Probate Registry to issue a Grant of Probate upon someone’s death. This is the document used to enable the executors in the estate to deal with the assets left in the Will.
The Will is submitted to the Probate Registry along with various other documents, including the Inheritance Tax return. The Probate Registry will carefully examine any Will that is received to ensure that it is valid and that there are no issues or uncertainties that could call into question the validity of the Will.
Unfortunately there are a number of innocent mistakes that can be made when drafting a Will that could result in a Will being considered partially or fully invalid. This could result in either a particular gift failing and therefore potentially excluding a loved one from inheriting, or at worst your estate will be treated as if you had no Will in place.
However minor these innocent mistakes may appear, these errors could impact the interpretation of the Will resulting in devastating consequences for your loved ones, especially at a time when they need clarity and certainty more than anything.
In addition, a failure to take legal advice when making a Will could leave your estate vulnerable to claims from those who you do not intend to benefit from your estate. A successful claim could mean that your intended beneficiaries lose out on a significant proportion of their inheritance from your estate. Modern families are increasingly complex and as a result, contentious probate claims are on the rise. Seeking professional legal advice when drafting a Will has therefore become increasingly important.
If my DIY will is considered invalid, will my beneficiaries still inherit my estate?
A DIY Will at worst can be considered completely invalid and your estate would then be distributed according to the intestacy rules. The intestacy rules are set out by statute and will depend upon your surviving family members as to how your estate is distributed. The way in which these rules operate can however be surprising.
To illustrate this, let’s imagine a hypothetical estate where Mr A dies leaving his wife and 2 children. His estate has assets worth a total of £570,000. His DIY Will left all of his estate to his wife. If this DIY Will is considered to be invalid and the intestacy rules apply, his wife only inherits £270,000 and the remaining assets worth £300,000 are split as to 50% for his wife and 50% for your children. This could lead to a situation where his wife has to sell their property in order to pay the children their share of Mr A’s estate.
Whilst it is vital to put a Will in place, a hasty decision to write your own may not be worth the risk. It is important to seek professional advice from a solicitor who can draft your Will for you, taking into account your own concerns along with a host of other issues, which may have been overlooked in a DIY Will. This will give you that peace of mind which, at the time of losing a loved one, is priceless.