Writing a Will isn’t something that is high on the agenda for most people – after all, having to consider the rather morbid topic of one’s passing isn’t much fun. It’s arguably one of the most important documents you’ll ever have to prepare, but a surprising number of Wills are found to have mistakes in them that can result in the person’s wishes not being carried out, or even worse, the Will being totally invalid and the relatives having to find their way through a messy probate ordeal. Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep in mind some of the most common (and potentially costly) mistakes.
1. Taking the DIY approach
As many people are aware, there are a plethora of packages and resources out there that make it possible to write your Will yourself. It’s tempting to save the money you’d spend on having your Will written by a solicitor. However, doing it yourself can be risky, especially if your affairs are not straightforward. One of the most common causes of Will disputes between relatives is when the Will is not legally watertight – this can easily happen if the document is not drafted by an experienced professional. Saving that extra money at the time of writing could not only result in an invalid Will, but could cost your family thousands when the time comes to execute it.
2. Not having the document signed properly
Having the correct signatures on your Will is crucial to its validity, but often people do not get this right when they are putting their Will together. Aside from the content of the Will, there are several factors that are required in order to make your Will valid:
- It must be signed by you, in the presence of two witnesses who are not beneficiaries of the Will
- It must then be signed by the two witnesses, in your presence
- You must be 18 years of age or older
- You must be ‘of sound mind, memory and understanding’
- The Will must be written without ‘undue influence’ from any other person.
The ideal position is therefore to have the will witnessed with the solicitor who drafted the Will, to ensure there is no issue.
3. Not keeping your Will up to date
Of course things change as we make our way through life; but did you know you have to keep your Will up to date? For example, if you have already made a Will and you enter into a new marriage, the Will you previously made is rendered invalid. You also need to keep in mind any new assets you acquire, and ensure they are accounted for. You might have a perfectly valid Will, but if you leave anything out without specific instructions, disputes can ensue. To prevent any confusion or disagreements, it’s best to update your Will to reflect any new circumstances, be it new family members, new assets, or just a change of heart.
4. Allowing a beneficiary to be involved in the process
This is another factor that could one day raise disputes over your Will. Having a beneficiary involved at all in the process of creating your Will could lead to accusations of ‘undue influence’ later on. Your Will is a hugely important and personal document so you could understandably want to have your family at your side when deciding how to divide your assets, but it’s advisable to make these decisions alone. You will have to choose witnesses who are not beneficiaries in order for the Will to be valid, and to eliminate any risk of your beneficiaries being accused of undue influence.
5. Not having a Will at all
58% of adult Britons have not written any kind of Will. It’s never too early to get one in place, especially if you have started building your assets. If the worst happens and you die without leaving a Will, this is referred to as dying ‘intestate’. If this is the case, it will be the responsibility of the state to divide up your assets according to a strict set of intestacy laws. These laws do not recognise anyone you are not related to, married to or in a civil partnership with. Unless you mention them in your Will, anyone outside of these categories will not be able to inherit.
At Devonalds Solicitors, our experienced team offer a comprehensive Wills & Probate service. Thinking about planning for the future and need to discuss your options? Or already have a Will in place but have questions that need answering? Get in touch with our friendly team today – you can send us an enquiry via our website, or simply give us a call.
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