The Potential Problems of DIY Wills

Posted 01 September 2016 by Richard Tinkler

If you’re going to make a Will, I can’t emphasise how important it is to have it done properly. Naturally, I would of course recommend seeing a solicitor to ensure you receive the proper advice when making a Will and to ensure all the relevant clauses are included in the Will. You also have the peace of mind that your solicitor is insured and regulated. When a Will is not made correctly, the intentions of the person making the Will (‘the testator’) may not be carried out at all or wishes could be misinterpreted if there ambiguities in the wording of the Will. Making a Will without professional advice and assistance can lead to an invalid Will being made or a Will with clauses which conflict and cause problems for executors and beneficiaries. Here are some examples of what can go wrong when you write your own Will. I promise you that this list is not exhaustive!

1 The Will might be fine in terms of its actual contents, but if it is not executed in the correct manner, the entire document will be invalid, defeating the object of making the Will in the first place!

2 The wishes may be not carried out in the way the person making the Will wanted. For example, say somebody wanted to give £5,000 to each of their grandchildren John and Julie. They write their own Will with a clause specifying “I give £5,000 to my grandchildren John and Julie”. Does this wording mean the £5,000 is to be shared between them both, or do each get £5,000? It is not clear! There are of course other issues with drafting a clause in this way. For example, what would happen if there were two grandchildren called John or Julie?

3 Physical items to pass to beneficiaries as legacies may not be identified properly. For example, say someone makes a Will giving “my favourite motorcycle to my son Robert”. They have two motorcycles when they die and they have two sons – Robert and Andrew. There is a risk of a dispute if Robert and Andrew disagree over which motorcycle was their father’s favourite.

To reiterate, these three issues are just three of many possible scenarios illustrating just what can go wrong if one makes a Will oneself or without proper legal advice. The effects of a poorly drafted Will can last many years because a family fall out can ensue with potentially no reconciliation. It is very important if you make a Will that it is drafted properly and taking advice from a solicitor will help you to achieve this. In addition, your solicitor can also advise you at the time you make your will about matters such as inheritance tax planning, possibilities of claims against the estate, and other matters which you may wish to take advice on including lasting powers of attorney, (which allow you to appoint a person or people to manage your affairs if you find yourself in the position where you cannot do this yourself).

This article aims to supply general information but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that any law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek specific advice.

Capron & Helliwell Solicitors offer a range of legal services at the firm’s Stalham and Wroxham offices near North Walsham and Norwich in Norfolk. The firm specialises in areas including family law, conveyancing and private client law including wills and probate. Capron & Helliwell Solicitors offer free family law clinics – please call 01692 581231 for further details or to make an appointment.

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