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D-I-Why? The Risks and Pitfalls of a DIY Will

During the course of the pandemic, the number of people searching for DIY Wills and online will services rose sharply.

Whilst a cheap Will kit might seem tempting at first glance, the issues arising from a poorly prepared Will could result in costs far exceeding the small savings made having a DIY Will instead of instructing a solicitor. It is estimated that the average estate is valued at approximately £160,000 and with the costs of inheritance disputes costing up to 10% of the estate, the costs can quickly outweigh any savings made by not seeking professional advice in the first instance.

The increase in DIY Wills appears to directly correlate with a steep rise in claims brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. Further, it has been reported that such claims rose by 72% in 2021.

So what could go wrong?

There are very strict guidelines in relation to witnessing a Will. For a Will to be deemed valid, it must be signed in the presence of two people, who must be:

  • UK Citizens and over the age of 18; and
  • Not be named as a beneficiary in the will, or be married to someone named as a beneficiary.

If these conditions are not met, the High Court could rule the Will invalid, which in effect means the estate is treated as though there is no Will. This also means that the estate would pass under the intestacy rules – which may not be what the deceased wanted, leading to an inheritance dispute and rising costs.

Writing your own Will often means that your Will is prepared in the comfort of your own home without any independent advice or anybody independent present. In turn, this means that if somebody wishes to contest the Will they could raise concerns about mental capacity and/or undue influence by a family member. It would be very difficult to dismiss such claims in the absence of any credible evidence to the contrary.

Insufficient clarity in the wording of a Will could be another issue. For example, if you do not specify who should benefit in the event of one of named beneficiaries predeceasing you, a partial intestacy could arise again leading to the problems outlined above.

DIY Will kits very rarely allow for more complex circumstances such as:

  • Blended families
  • Children under 18
  • Assets overseas
  • Consideration of one’s Inheritance Tax bill and how this could be reduced through your Will
  • How to deal with omitting a child from a Will

If proper consideration is not given to the above, the estate may not be distributed in the way the person preparing the Will intended.

Here at Napthens we are able to advise on the above issues and prepare a Will which will take into account all of your circumstances and wishes and ensure that every eventuality is catered for. Your Will is one of the most important documents you will ever write, so it is worth doing properly.

If you would like to discuss making a Will, please contact a member of our Wills & Estates Planning team.