As the problems of the pandemic continue, there has been a huge rise in the number of people searching online for instructions on writing their own Will.
With difficulties in visiting solicitors’ offices, it can be tempting to have a go at writing a Will yourself. However, it is far more complex than most people realise, and when mistakes are made it can cause disputes as well as lengthy and expensive court battles.
Pitfalls of a DIY Will
Everyone’s personal and family situation is different, so there really is no ‘one size fits all’ option when it comes to writing a Will.
Matters that a solicitor will consider include how best to manage your tax and Inheritance Tax situation to avoid your estate paying more than is essential. How to provide for children after your death, to include provision of a guardian, putting trusts in place, either for tax reasons or for your children.
Considering whether a life interest in an asset such as a house is appropriate to ensure that your children do not lose out on inheriting it and ensuring that a Will is correctly signed and witnessed.
If your Will is ambiguous or poorly drafted, then it could cause arguments between family members. If they choose to start legal action, then your estate might not be administered for a long time, even several years. It is also the case that much of the money left in your estate could be swallowed up in legal bills.
The courts have seen a steady increase in disputed probate cases over recent years, often as a result of Wills that have not been properly drafted.
If you have instructed a solicitor to act on your behalf, then this will go a long way to minimising the risk of a dispute.
Firstly, the Will should be correctly drafted, with clear and unambiguous language, and beneficiaries will be correctly identified and included. Your solicitor will also ensure that the Will is properly signed and witnessed; without this it will not be valid. The process is not always straightforward, particularly if the witnesses cannot actually be present, for example during a lockdown. There are special rules in place to cover this, and your solicitor will be able to ensure that they are properly adhered to and that your Will is in order and can take effect on your death.
Your solicitor would also be able to testify as to your intentions and your capacity, if these were ever questioned. They will speak with you, to understand your wishes, and before they draft your Will they will satisfy themselves that you are capable of understanding what you are signing. In the event that this is likely to be questioned, they would ensure that you have a Certificate of Testamentary Capacity signed by a medical professional.
If your Will is clear, well-drafted and written by a professional, it is less likely that anyone will bring a court case against it. A homemade Will can be easier to challenge and because of this, those who have been left out may feel that they have more of a chance of successfully doing so.
The cost of a Will professionally drafted by a solicitor is minimal when compared to the expense and disruption of a legal dispute following death. To give yourself peace of mind and reassurance to your loved ones, think about having your Will drawn up by a qualified lawyer.