We can all appreciate the value of a bit of Do-It-Yourself. It can be a great way to save some money on things you’d normally have to pay a professional for. But as many have found out through DIY disasters, sometimes it could have been better to get a professional involved after all. The same goes for Wills – while there are DIY options out there that will allow you to make a Will (albeit you probably wouldn’t find them in B&Q), this is one area where getting help from an expert could save your family from a lot of hassle later on.
Most would agree that your Will is one of the most important documents you will ever have to prepare. Though it’s not a subject that many people like to consider, your Will is the one document that has the authority to ensure your wishes are carried out when you’re gone. However, in order for the document to be indisputable, it must be legally watertight, so it’s essential that you get it right.
Despite this, many decide to prepare their Will using budget methods such as DIY packs bought online or in stationery shops. While cutting corners on writing your Will may save you some money in the short term, the smallest mistake can result in an invalid Will.
What happens if your Will is invalid?
When someone passes away without a valid Will, this is known is dying ‘intestate’. In this situation the division of their assets would be decided by the laws of intestacy. These laws give strict guidelines on who inherits what, so if your Will is found to be invalid after your death your wishes could be disregarded, and your estate distributed according to these laws instead.
In 2015, Eileen McCormack found herself in a stressful probate ordeal after her late brother George’s DIY Will was found to be invalid.
“There were hand-written amendments in different-coloured inks, plus the will wasn’t witnessed at the time it was drafted – nor when any of the changes were made,” said Eileen. “He constantly amended it and moved figures around, altering what people were due to inherit.”
This mistake eventually resulted in 16% of George’s estate being used to pay legal fees – a costly and stressful situation that could have been avoided had he sought legal advice on making the Will.
An invalid or badly written Will can also be problematic when it comes to being contested. It can leave your estate open to relatives who are not your chosen beneficiaries staking a claim, and lead to disputes between relatives. In fact, an invalid Will can sometimes be worse than having no Will at all.
How a solicitor can help
When you have an appointment with a solicitor, they will be able to talk you through the process and everything that is required. They will discuss your individual circumstances with you to ensure that the Will is tailored to your exact needs and will be effective in ensuring your wishes are carried out after you’re gone.
Solicitors are highly trained and experienced in preparing Wills, and your solicitor will know how to use the correct language to ensure that the document is valid and no stone is left unturned. This is crucial for protecting the Will from being contested later on.
In order to have a valid Will, several strict conditions must be met:
- You must be aged 18 or over.
- The Will should be in writing.
- There must be no reason to believe that you made the will under pressure or influence from anyone else.
- You must be in a sound mental state and be aware of the nature of the document.
- You must sign the Will in the presence of two witnesses (these two witnesses cannot be beneficiaries mentioned in the Will).
- The two witnesses must sign the Will in your presence.
As well as drawing up the document, a solicitor will also be able to facilitate this process and make sure all the correct steps are followed to guarantee its validity.
At Devonalds our friendly and experienced Wills & Probate specialists are experts in helping our clients to prepare a Will tailored to their individual needs. Our expertise is recognised by the Law Society – we are accredited under the Wills & Inheritance Quality Scheme.
Our advice is to not be tempted by the DIY kits – for a top quality Will and real peace of mind, it’s best to go with the professionals. Are you thinking about getting your Will in place, or just have questions about what’s involved? Get in touch with us today – call us on 01443 755189 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.