As counter-intuitive as it may seem, a large percentage of the adult population never considers making a Will.
Some are put off by what they see as unnecessary costs, whilst others simply feel the issue won’t affect them, well, not in the short term, at least. Sadly many of us find to our cost that this simple omission can have devastating repercussions for our families after we’ve gone. Undoubtedly the cost of making a Will can appear to be expensive, particularly if the estate seems relatively straightforward. However, it’s worth remembering that the majority of Wills are rarely straightforward: unfortunately a generous bequest made today may result in unforeseen consequences for the remaining family members later which were never envisaged at the time the Will was drafted.
Given the complexity of this specialised area of law, you may be surprised to discover that DIY Wills, or home Wills, are increasing in popularity. Statistics show that almost 30 per cent of adults are choosing do-it-yourself Wills, rather than using the professional services of a qualified solicitor. So, is it better to make short-term savings and write your own Will, or is your family’s future always better protected by using the services of a qualified professional?
There is no legal requirement for a home Will to be drawn up or witnessed by a solicitor.
Anyone wishing to make a Will themselves is perfectly able to do so. On the face of it, DIY Wills are fine: they will let you draw up a simple Will with the minimum of fuss and expense. However, it’s important to note that do-it-yourself Wills won’t and can never be suitable for everyone’s circumstances. Wills are no different than any other walk of life: one size doesn’t, and never will fit all. There will be occasions, even with the most straightforward estates, where a bespoke Will is more suitable.
Home Wills won’t necessarily address the issues that could potentially have long-term consequences for your family’s wellbeing, like inheritance tax, powers of attorney, trusts or guardianship. Above all else it’s extremely important to remember that although do-it-yourself Wills may well be ‘cheaper’ in the short-term term, the slightest error or omission in this legal document could render the Will unenforceable, thus creating unnecessary and potentially expensive problems for the remaining family members and negating the very best intentions you wanted to express within the Will itself.
Are DIY Wills valid and fit for purpose?
The answer to that question is, unsurprisingly, not quite as straightforward as you might think. It depends entirely on whether the Will has been written in a way that allows it to work properly, and has been attested and signed in accordance with all the legal requirements. A Will may appear relatively simple at first sight, such as transferring ownership of property or assets from one partner to another, or to the remaining children after death; however, there will always be issues that arise that unfortunately can never be addressed by home wills. We can all set out our intentions and write them down on paper, but can this ever really replace talking the issues through with a fully trained and experienced practitioner? Sadly the answer to that is no. Even the simplest Will can have potential complications. Some issues are always best left in the hands of the professionals.
Which issues do DIY Wills often fail to address?
- Not being aware of the formal requirements needed to make a will legally valid.
- Failing to take account of all the money and property available.
- Failing to take account of the possibility that a beneficiary may die before the person making the will.
- Changing the will. If these alterations are not signed and witnessed, they are invalid.
- Being unaware of the effect of marriage, a registered civil partnership, divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership on a will.
- Being unaware of the rules which exist to enable dependants to claim from the estate if they believe they are not adequately provided for. These rules mean that the provisions in the Will could be overturned.
Which issues can home-made Wills never address?
- That no consideration can be given to trusts which could protect the property from future charges.
- No consideration will be given towards the effects of future inheritance.
- No consideration will be given towards Powers of Attorney.
- There will be no thought about life policies.
- There will be no thought over guardians and guardianship for any remaining children.
- No thought will be given about making monies available to the guardians who will care for these children.
Making a Will is one of the most important things you will ever do. If you want to ensure that your family will be secure, financially stable and properly looked after when you’ve gone, then surely it’s best to consult an expert. Doesn’t it make sense therefore to use the services of a fully qualified and experienced solicitor?
For further help or information about Wills and estate management, contact Harold Stock & Co Solicitors on 01457 835597 or email email@example.com.