The law of unintended consequences – the dangers of online and homemade wills
Almost every week we see people who have put off making their wills for years, often with the belief that their family can sort everything out upon their death. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
DIY will kits can be purchased for as little as £10 and are often advertised as a cheap and convenient alternative to a face-to-face meeting with a solicitor, with some online forms taking less than ten minutes to complete.
So, why pay a professional to do something you can do yourself? Figures suggest that homemade wills are the cause of 38,000 Probate Registry delays every year and can lead to additional charges and difficulties during the estate administration.
Several problems can be encountered when administering estates with homemade wills, which could easily be avoided by a face to face meeting with a specialist, for example:
- The will hasn’t been validly executed. There are strict formalities to make a will (and to change one) set by the Wills Act 1837. If these are not complied with, the will cannot be held to be valid.
- Claims that the deceased did not have capacity or didn’t know what they were doing when they made the will can be avoided with a solicitor, who will carefully assess your capacity and can provide written evidence of this – crucial if the will is later challenged.
- If someone makes a will at home or online, coercion by a family member or friend is a real possibility and there is no protection or check against it.
- Change in circumstances. Many people don’t realise that marriage and divorce have very different but wide ranging effects on wills.
- Family relationships can break down which can result in one child being written out of the will. It is vital to take advice on this to protect your wishes in case of a claim after your death.
- Legislation on inheritance tax is ever changing and the level of tax can be influenced by succession planning in your will as well as lifetime gifts, therefore your position should be regularly reviewed.
- Failure to leave a valid will may result in your estate being distributed in accordance with a previous will or in line with statutory rules, neither of which are likely to represent your wishes.
At Raworths we can discuss your life and wishes with you and can suggest different will structures based on your personal circumstances, rather than relying on the “one size fits all” approach of DIY wills.
Published on 28 November 2019