Drafting your own will and not using a solicitor might seem like a good money-saving idea. However, you should not be tempted as a homemade will could not only turn out to be a false economy but can also create unintended consequences causing unnecessary problems and distress for the family members you leave behind.
There is no legal requirement for a will to be made by a solicitor, however, it will only be valid if the legal requirements for making a will have been complied with. If your homemade will falls short of these requirements it has the consequence of your estate being treated as if you had died intestate (i.e. without a will) and your estate will be passed to your next of kin in a fixed order, which may not be the people you intended.
PROBLEMS WITH HOMEMADE WILLS
Small errors made in homemade wills can cause huge problems in the future. Common problems with homemade wills include the will not being signed or witnessed correctly. We often see home made wills which are made up of loose papers – they must be bound for it to be valid. It may not be drafted correctly or it is too vague and ambiguous or does not deal with the whole of your estate. Errors also include not taking into account inheritance tax implications or not amending the will in the correct way. Adding extra unnecessary legal terminology may make your will look good but if put in the wrong context could alter your meaning and intention altogether.
Whilst it is encouraging to see people are planning ahead and thinking of those who will be left behind homemade wills have the potential of being more trouble than not having a will at all because of the legal costs incurred in the event of a dispute. Websites offering readymade templates and DIY will kits might look sufficient but may not cover your specific circumstances and drafting mistakes can easily be made when trying to fit your circumstances to the template of the form. You should also be cautious of voucher websites offering discounts on will services as these tend to be confined to a short consultation over the phone with escalating hidden costs. It is very questionable whether the time and work allocated to draft a will in such offers is sufficient enough to ensure an accurate and thorough service.
The lower fees charged for using a will writer could also seem tempting, but a recent investigation by the Law Society warns of the problems with these services. A will writer is not required to be legally trained and anyone can set themselves up and charge money for the service. Unlike a solicitor a will writer is not regulated, this has caused concerns leading to the Law Services Board recently announcing proposals for regulation of all will writing services to ensure the same level of regulation and enforcement.
WHY USE A SOLICITOR
Homemade wills may be made as a spur of the moment decision and not thoroughly thought out. By using a solicitor and discussing your situation in detail you can ensure that your wishes are arranged exactly as you planned them. You will have the reassurance that you are using someone with professional qualifications and knowledge of other areas which may be beneficial such as property and tax planning.
Solicitors are regulated by the law society to ensure high standards of work, which means that a solicitor is held legally and ethically accountable. In the event of an error solicitors are required to have negligence insurance as well as the law society providing a compensation fund to protect a client.
You will not be there to correct any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of your will, therefore, paying the costs for instructing a solicitor may be a small price to pay for your peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out.
Photo “Sunset” by Bruce Fingerhood used under CC Attribution Licence 2.0