Considering whether to write your own will? Here’s why you probably shouldn’t!
DIY wills have been around for decades but there is a reason why professional will writing solicitors in the UK continue to exist. If you’re thinking about writing your own will, there are a number of aspects that you will need to consider, particularly important is the high risk which comes with ‘doing it yourself’.
Can you write your own will?
Technically – yes. You can write your own version of most legal documents, but that doesn’t mean it will do the job. In fact, unless you have a very simple, straightforward life and want to leave all your assets to one person, or equally between several, you shouldn’t even be considering it. Second marriages and families, heirlooms which could be potentially contested, difficult family relationships…. All these things equate to a need for a professional and well-thought-out will and, equally, means you really shouldn’t risk writing your own will.
If you think that your personal circumstances are very simple and that you will be fine, then please read the list below. This list includes just some common complexities which can affect your will and mean you really shouldn’t take a chance and write your own will:
- Being divorced
- Having a child outside of your marriage, alongside having a child inside your marriage
- Having both children and step-children
- Having a child or children under 18 and a need to specify a guardian
- Having a long-term partner but not being married or in a civil partnership
- Having assets and/or liquid cash over £325,000 (circa 2023)
- Owning multiple properties
- Owning stocks
- Being a business owner and/or significant shareholder
- Owning property abroad
- Having dual citizenship
- Not being a British Citizen
- Owning family heirlooms which you wish to pass on, either in or outside of your own family
- Wishing to leave differing amounts to different people, for your own personal reasons
- Wishing to leave a substantial amount to charity (which could be contested)
- You already have a professionally written will
- You have substantial debts or liabilities
- There are Personal Guarantees outstanding
- You have a pet and would like to specify who would take care of them
- You’ve filed for bankruptcy at some point in your life
- You foresee yourself incurring care costs prior to death
- Having a family history of dementia, Alzheimer’s or other ailments that could affect your mental capabilities in later life
- There is already an agreement in place whereby a particular action takes place upon your death (e.g., within a shareholder’s agreement it states the death of a shareholder will automatically trigger a compulsory offer of the deceased’s shares to the remaining shareholders)
If you meet any of the above criteria, you shouldn’t consider writing your own will. Please contact Claire Warner by calling 01752 203500.
Are DIY Wills Legally Binding?
DIY wills are invariably much easier to contest. Disgruntled or long-lost family members can often come out of the woodwork when a will is read and you need to be assured that your assets are going exactly where you wish.
If the will hasn’t been officially drawn up by a professional, then it could be far easier for a will dispute to arise and changes to come into effect. There are very strict rules in place to ensure a will is considered valid in the eyes of the law.
A will needs to be signed and witnessed by two independent witnesses. These witnesses must not benefit from the will and they must also be present at the time the will is signed.
Issues with DIY wills also arise because wording or wishes are not clear or because there are discrepancies or ambiguity.
If you have written your own will and would like your wishes to be recorded more formally and officially, please get in touch.
What makes a will invalid?
There are very strict legal formalities in place when making a will. These formalities are law under the Wills Act 1837. Unfortunately, a myriad of things could invalidate a will.
These can include:
- The will not being signed by the testator (the person writing the will)
- The will not being signed in the presence of two independent adult witnesses
- One or more of the witnesses also being a beneficiary of the will
- The will not including a signature of one or both of the witnesses
- Undue pressure or influence being placed on the testator
- A new (and legally valid) will being created at a later date
- The testator lacking in sufficient mental capacity to either draw up or sign the will
- A belief that the will has been forged
This list demonstrates the number of ways writing your own will can go south. Is it really worth taking this risk when using a solicitor can ensure your will is valid and your assets are distributed exactly as you wish?
Of course, there are also other benefits to using a solicitor to write your will.
The benefits of using a solicitor to write your will
As this article details, you are perfectly within your rights to write your own will. That being said, there are very strict rules governing how a will should be executed and witnessed to be legally valid.
DIY wills are often unclear or not properly executed, making it far easier for your will to be challenged, or for your will to be declared legally invalid.
By using a solicitor, or a professional will-writer at a regulated law firm, you will be given professional advice and prompted to make considerations that you may not have otherwise thought of.
The benefits of using a solicitor to write your will include:
- Digital assets – Who has access to these? Should they be shut down after your passing? Who should have access? All key considerations often missed and increasingly important in a digital age
- Inheritance tax – Inheritance tax advice could be crucial and receiving advice at the time of writing your will could save tens of thousands of pounds. Inheritance tax could be greatly reduced or even cease with the correct advice
- Solicitors will understand the legal reasons for contesting a will – such as the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 – and deal with these at the outset
- A solicitor can also act as an executor and ensure the distribution of your assets is handled correctly and efficiently
- If necessary, solicitors can also help to set up trust funds for any vulnerable or underage beneficiaries
- A solicitor will ensure your will is stored safely and securely. They can also register your will on the National Will Register should you wish
- Funeral requests – would you like to be cremated or buried? Would you like everyone to wear green as it’s your favourite colour?! A solicitor will ensure all of your wishes are accurately recorded
- By ensuring the will is valid, a solicitor can save your loved ones from any unnecessary stress that could be caused by an inheritance dispute
- Solicitors can assist with the valuation of your estate, including recommending reputable estate agents, etc
After reading the above, we hope you recognise that writing your own will opens you up to a good deal of risk. Please call us today and we will provide you with high quality legal advice and make everything as easy as possible for you.
You can contact us by calling 01752 203500 or emailing enquiries@GAsolicitors.com.
Our lawyers and solicitors in Plymouth are highly experienced in all areas of will writing and private client work. We are ranked in The Legal 500 and Chambers High Net Worth. We are also accredited by Solicitors for the Elderly so you can know you are in the best possible hands.