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Making Your Own Will - The Pitfalls of DIY and Homemade Wills

It feels like a long time ago since 23rd March when Boris Johnson announced that the country was going into lockdown. Over that period, solicitors and will writers across the country were inundated with enquiries from people who wanted to update their Will or make a new one. Due to social distancing, legal compliance rules, such as needing to see original ID, and client safeguarding measures, preparing Wills in lockdown proved challenging and sometimes impossible for professionals.

As a result, this is likely to have led to many people deciding to draft their own Wills or instructing an online company to do so for them. These methods involve drafting the document to reflects the client’s wishes but do not provide any advice.

What can go wrong?

The requirements for making a valid Will are strict and as professionals we hear all too often about homemade Wills which fail for simple reasons which could have been avoided if legal advice had been taken.

Sometimes Wills are drafted too narrowly or too broadly, and therefore they do not have the desired effect. Sometimes the Will is witnessed by someone who is legally unable to do so without invalidating part or all of the Will. Sometimes the Will is drafted in a tax inefficient way, or would have been more suitable if it had incorporated a trust. These are all things that a qualified professional could have considered and discussed with the deceased if they had sought advice.

When do I need to get legal advice?

Whilst it is always preferable to obtain legal advice before preparing a Will, advice should always be sought in the following circumstances:

  • If you are in a relationship but you are not married
  • If there are any children who you are not seeking to benefit from your Will
  • If any of the beneficiaries are vulnerable, for example if they lack capacity to deal with their finances or are minors
  • If you own a business or a shareholding in a private company
  • If you are in a second/third/fourth marriage and you wish to protect your assets for your children from a previous marriage
  • If you have assets in excess of £500,000 (or £1 million as a couple)
  • If you are going through a divorce

This is not an exhaustive list and if you are in any doubt about the complexity of your situation, you should seek legal advice.

DIY Wills are more expensive than you think…

Whilst paying a professional to draft your Will might seem expensive, the reality is that a poorly drafted Will means that legal advice will almost certainly be required to deal with your estate when you pass away. The costs to your estate are likely to be around double what they would have been if the Will had been drafted in a suitable way. Therefore, it is actually more cost effective to pay to have your Will drafted properly in your lifetime than to deal with the problems once you have passed away. For example, paying £100 for a DIY Will and £10,000 in probate legal fees adds up to more than £400 for a professionally drafted Will and £5,000 in probate legal fees!

To get an idea of the most suitable Will structure for you, you can fill out our no-obligation questionnaire at https://uk.acquire.arken.legal/gbr/hG8EbbnipqMyVQ1Pb26zx1

For more information about making a Will at Brethertons, visit our dedicated Wills page at https://www.brethertons.co.uk/site/individuals/wills-trust-probate-solicitors/estate-planning-and-wills/

If you wish to speak to one of our specialist lawyers about making a Will or updating your current Will, you can contact us on 01295 661556.