You only have to google ‘writing a Will’ to be bombarded with bargain DIY kits, Will writers, and Mumsnet threads explaining how to write your own Will on the back of a napkin. But is it really that easy? Is it worth bothering to pay a solicitor a couple of hundred pounds to draw up a Will when you can buy a Will kit for £19.99 at WHSmith, or better still write your own at home for nothing?
Common mistakes of the DIY Will
“Surely I can just write a Will myself, stating that the house goes to my husband and children, and get the neighbours to sign it?”
Well, technically yes. But it is not always that straight-forward.
- Signing and witnessing: Many people who write their own Will either forget to sign and date it, or don’t have it correctly witnessed. Common mistakes include signing in the wrong place, not signing at all, not having the correct number of witnesses or witnesses signing incorrectly. A witness cannot in any way benefit from the Will. This means that if you had a family member sign it, they have effectively written themselves out of the Will.
- Disposing of the whole estate: Listing all of your worldly possessions is impossible and very time consuming. Many DIY Wills fail to cover all of the assets in the estate. It is common for people to list their house, bank account and car but forget to mention the life insurance or other household possessions. When this happens you end up with a ‘partial-intestacy’, meaning some of the assets are dealt with by the Will, and others using the rules of intestacy. It may be the case that people end up inheriting when you did not want them to. A good solicitor will be aware of this and will know how to carefully draft your Will to cover everything in your estate.
- Oversimplifying things: The laws around inheritance tax, executors and trusts can be complicated. It is not as easy as stating that your children should inherit all of your money. If you die when they are very young you need to think about who is going to manage this money and look after them. Recent changes to the tax rules mean that stating an age at which your children benefit (i.e. 21 or 25) can have adverse tax consequences. A good solicitor should be familiar with these laws and can help you make the best choices.
Will writers – a cheaper alternative?
Will writing is unregulated work. This means that you do not require any legal training or qualifications to call yourself a “Will writer”. The opposite is true of a “solicitor”.
It is important to distinguish between Will writers and solicitors. Although many Will writers are good at what they do, they are not necessarily legally trained, regulated or properly insured. Solicitors have undergone years of legal training, are regulated by the Law Society and hold professional indemnity insurance. That means if something goes wrong, YOU are covered.
It is also worth shopping around. Will writers are not always cheaper than a solicitor. They will sometimes charge extras such as annual storage charges and fees for removing your Will from their care. Don’t assume that a solicitor will be more expensive.
Save your loved ones the headache
Paying a solicitor to properly draft a Will is more likely to ensure the best outcome after you die. It is especially important that you have a Will made by a professional if you own overseas assets, a business or have complicated family circumstances. This is particularly the case if you are in a couple but not married. In these cases, the rules of intestacy may result in your partner being left with nothing.
Almost 40% of people in Wiltshire in a recent study admitted to not having put a Will in place at all. Don’t put it off any longer. The cost of making a Will properly through a qualified solicitor is far less than the potential emotional and financial cost to your loved ones of fixing mistakes once you are gone.
If you would like to discuss putting a Will in place, speak to Rachel Saunders on 01793 522688 or any member of our our Wills & Trusts team at any of our five offices.