DIY Wills And Why To Avoid Them
Posted on 1st November 2021 at 11:58
It might be tempting to have a go at writing your own Will to save time and money but if this is something you are considering, it is worth noting the many dangers of doing so and understanding why asking for expert advice is so important. Below are some of the common misconceptions and the reasons why you should seek advice.
My estate is simple, I don't need to do a professional will
Do you own property abroad? Do you own a business or a farm? Is your estate worth more than £325,000? If so, you might not be in the best position to write your own will as you would benefit from taking specialist advice on all those matters.
A professional could advise you to make sure you have an efficient estate plan in place. This could mean using more complex planning that you may not have been aware of such as trusts and making sure you’re aware of the inheritance tax allowances available to you and how to make the best use of them. You may save money initially by writing your own will instead of paying a professional, but in the end it could cost your estate much more in taxes that could have been mitigated.
I don't speak to one of my children so I want to just leave my estate to my other children and leave them out
If you are planning on leaving someone out of your Will who might expect to benefit from your estate, you may not realise that the law allows certain people to apply to the court after your death if your will failed to make ‘reasonable’ provision for them. Professional advice will benefit you here. A will writer will be able to tell you who may have a claim against your estate and what can be put in place to mitigate their chance of success.
As long as I put something in writing and sign it, I'll have a valid will
For a will to be legally valid it has to meet certain requirements set out by law, specifically section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. If a will isn’t signed and witnessed correctly then it won’t be valid, and it will have no legal effect.
Getting the witnessing right is key. You need two witnesses to watch you sign your will and to then sign themselves afterwards.
I can keep it really simple and just get my family to witness it for me
Your DIY Will might be validly signed and witnessed but there is still a danger that your wishes won’t take effect or parts of your will might fail. The main issues you could face are:
• If one of your beneficiaries or their spouse or civil partner acts as a witness to the will then any gift to them will be void.
• The wording used in the will is ambiguous or uncertain.
• The will attempts to gift your ‘share’ in a property that you own with someone else, but the property is owned as joint tenants so the gift in the will fails.
• The residuary estate is not properly dealt with so some of your estate passes on intestacy – this is where assets pass to certain relatives in a hierarchy, so not necessarily to the people you wanted to benefit
Remember, if something in your will is uncertain you won’t be around to provide any clarity to resolve any issues. That’s why it is so important to make sure the wording in the will is clear, certain, and the correct legal terminology is used where appropriate.
My children will be looked after by my family if I'm not here and they will deal with my estate
A will should appoint executors to deal with your estate after you pass away. They will be responsible for dealing with your assets, your debts, declaring and paying any relevant taxes, and ultimately making sure your estate passes on to the people you want it to. It is important you appoint someone you trust to take on this role, otherwise someone will be appointed after your death and that person may not be the most suitable executor.
If you have children under the age of 18, you have probably given some thought to who you would want to care for them if anything happened to you. It is a common misconception that minor children will automatically pass into the care of their godparents or your next closest relatives, but this isn’t the case. To make sure that people you know and trust take on the care of your children you would need to appoint them as a guardian, and this can be done by will. This is something that is often overlooked in DIY wills, simply because the person making it wasn’t aware it was something they needed to do in their will!
The above are just some of the reasons why a DIY Will may not be a good idea, there are many more! To avoid it going wrong, just pick up the phone and have an informal chat with an expert about your needs and circumstances and you may be surprised by some of the things you hadn’t thought about!
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