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Head of Wills, Trusts and Probate, Charles Neal, considers what to watch out for and the pitfalls of do-it-yourself Wills.
Anyone can write a Will; that statement is perfectly true. You can sit at your table, write down what you want and provided you sign it in front of two witnesses it is valid in English law. You do not need any special training or knowledge, and you do not need to pay for the privilege. It is no wonder it is very tempting to do exactly that.
But be warned, everything may not be as straight forward as you might think. It is reported that disputes over inheritance are rising; there were 368 cases in the High Court in 2018 - a rise from 227 in 2017. It is suggested that many of these will relate in some way to badly written Wills, Wills that did not take in to account the circumstances of the person who wrote the Will, and the reasonable expectations of family, friends, business partners etc.
Estates of all sizes and complexities can be the subject of challenge and there are pitfalls which are best avoided by engaging a professional, fully trained, experienced solicitor.
I dealt with a case a few years ago where a client came to see me following the death of her husband; the late husband and his mother had both made their own DIY Wills - the client particularly remembered her mother-in-law announcing how simple it was and inviting friends around to witness the Will with great glee, proclaiming that she was saving money and problems. That matter when settled cost £15,000 in additional tax alone, 30 years after the death of the lady in question!
In a more recent case, a person left most of the estate to “grandchildren” and listed them in an accompanying note. The list did not include a grandchild who had been fathered when the son had been young; the mother and the child had had nothing to do with the family and generally the grandchild was not considered socially as part of the family. It seems clear from the list that it was not intended to include this person as a beneficiary of this substantial estate. However, the Will very clearly did include this person.
There are lots of examples like these that any solicitor would be able to give, and that is without dealing with the potential upset of somebody who is either purposefully or inadvertently missed out of a Will or somehow receives a reduced share.
When it comes to litigation, this is always costly - emotionally as well as financially, that’s why we have specialist lawyers on hand to advise both as a preventative, and a cure. If you need legal advice or have concerns about Wills, inheritance, or other personal or commercial matters then contact us today.