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Buyer beware: the case against DIY Wills & estate planning
We’re often asked by clients whether they can write a Will themselves. The answer is yes, of course, as long as you’re aware of the risks involved in venturing down this particular path.
Whether you look online or to an off-the-shelf pack, there’s plenty of information available for anyone writing their own Will. But the availability of such resources only reinforces the notion that writing your own Will is something easily done without the help of a professional.
For some people, the DIY Will route may be suitable – for example, if your affairs are simple and your wishes are straightforward. If you have assets, a business, family or children however, you really need to ask yourself whether DIY estate planning is a risk worth taking.
Without the knowledge of an expert, it’s surprisingly easy to make a mistake in your Will. At best, this mistake could cause additional stress and worry to your loved ones. At worst it could render your Will invalid.
But sometimes it’s the seemingly simplest things that cause the problems, as these recent cases demonstrate.
Our client came to us following the death of his wife. She has prepared her own Will using a DIY Will pack, but had misunderstood some of the terms, meaning her wishes weren’t clear.
However she’d made a more fundamental mistake in that whilst she had signed her Will, she hadn’t dated her signature, nor had her Will been witnessed. As she had failed to follow the proper procedure, this meant that her Will was invalid.
We helped our client clarify the position and are now preparing his Will, giving him peace of mind that it’s valid and fit for purpose.
A further example of a fundamental error came to light when a client came to us needing a signature on an insurance claim form. The form made reference to her late husband’s Will, so the solicitor dealing asked for a copy of the document.
The Will had been prepared by an unregulated Will writer and although it was witnessed and dated, the deceased hadn’t signed it. This meant that the Will was invalid.
Both the Will writer and firm had failed to spot the error, despite them storing the Will and charging the deceased a significant sum, over many years, for doing so.