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The dangers of a DIY will
Why would you instruct a lawyer to write your will when you can just write your own?
You may have seen will writers and DIY will kits advertised online or in local supermarkets. It is important to be aware that, generally speaking, will writers do not have a legal background and do not have the same appreciation of the law surrounding wills that a lawyer will have.
So, whilst opting for these ‘cheaper alternatives’ may sound attractive at first, it can be all too easy to get will drafting wrong. Even a simple mistake can have disastrous consequences that can leave your executors with the task of putting things right after your death.
Here are some of the common errors that usually occur from DIY wills
The legal jargon in wills can often be confusing and, for those drafting wills on their own, it can be very easy to get the wording wrong. For example, the wording of the will may leave part of the estate undisposed of resulting in a partial intestacy. That could mean part of your estate ends up in the hands of people to whom you had not wished your estate to go.
Your will could also be considered ambiguous and open to interpretation which could cause conflicts between your beneficiaries as to your intentions at the time of making your will. If no interpretation can be agreed upon, it is not unusual to instruct counsel to make a determination on how the will should be construed which is, of course, an added expense to your estate that could have been avoided.
Whilst the execution of a will is not difficult, there are strict requirements on how wills need to be signed and witnessed. If done incorrectly, your will could be deemed invalid. If this is the case, your estate will pass via the intestacy rules. Whilst there is an option to remedy such a situation if the beneficiaries of the intestacy agree, a document would need to be drafted reflecting the amended distributions which would add further costs to your estate.
Other examples are where the will appears to have been dated incorrectly or not dated at all. The result being that affidavit evidence will usually need to be presented to the court before your will can be submitted to probate. Again, this may not only add further costs, but can cause delays whilst your witnesses are traced.
It is very important that your witnesses are completely independent. If your witnesses are also beneficiaries under your will, the gift to that beneficiary will fail and they will not receive their share in your estate.
Why get legal advice when making a will?
Whilst a DIY will may seem like the most cost-effective option, it is rarely the case on death. Many DIY wills end up being the subject of disagreements and contestations. Most believe that their affairs are straightforward, but this is not usually the case and a one-fits-all DIY option is not appropriate for everyone who decides to make a will.
For instance, your family circumstances may be complex, you may have an interest in a business or you might have foreign assets. It is very important to have a will that is specifically tailored towards your circumstances.
Even small and simple mistakes in will writing can have detrimental consequences. Whilst a DIY will may be the more attractive alternative in relation to costs, you will not be able to benefit from the peace of mind you would have received if you had taken legal advice.
A will prepared by a lawyer is likely to cost you more than a will writer or a DIY will pack, but the costs of a will now will always be much less than correcting a poorly drafted will afterwards. If you would like to discuss making a will in more detail, please contact us.