If you are thinking about writing a Will, you may have considered doing it yourself.
There are many templates and tools available online, along with vast amounts of information about the law and how to go about writing your own Will. However, there are significant benefits to using a solicitor to write your Will, not to mention the pitfalls of trying to do it yourself.
Are homemade Wills legal?
In short, yes, it's possible for a homemade, handwritten Will to be legal in England and Wales, as long as it's been properly drafted and meets the legal requirements. However there are potential risks of writing your own Will.
A Will is a formal legal document and, as a result, must meet certain legal requirements. If you write your own Will, without help from a solicitor, you need to make sure you know what's required in the eyes of the law. While you may have read and understood what these legal requirements are, can you be confident that you will be able to meet them? Homemade Wills are often poorly written, contain mistakes or are incorrectly executed, and even many online Will templates and services fail to observe the legal requirements for validity. As a result it will be invalid, open to challenge, or ineffective after death.
Why should you use a solicitor to write your Will?
One of the key benefits of using a solicitor begins even before the Will writing process. Writing a Will is part of estate planning, and while it is an important part, there are many practical and legal matters you may also wish to get in order. Similarly, a solicitor will be able to draw out all of the property and interests that make up your estate, ensuring that nothing is forgotten about. A solicitor will work with you to create a comprehensive Will that accurately reflects your estate and your wishes.
It can seem like a cheap option to buy a ‘Will pack’ which enables you to write your own Will, but the slightest error or misunderstanding of the use of legal terms can cause disputes amongst family members or may cause the Will to be invalid. This can lead to your estate being treated as if you had died intestate, ie without a Will. When this happens, your assets are distributed under the laws of intestacy according to a statutory set of rules which leave a person’s estate to their next of kin in a fixed order which may not be in accordance with your wishes.
You may think that your homemade Will is clear, but after your death you will not be able to clarify any misunderstanding or dispute between family members. So you need to ensure that your Will is effective when you die and will pass your estate to the beneficiaries you choose.
Incorrectly drawn up Wills are found to be invalid and disregarded, or at best ineffective. Solicitors are then employed to deal with family disputes over badly written wills and this can be expensive. It is far better to have your will drawn up correctly by a professional to try and avoid any possible disputes in the future.
What about complex finances, inheritance tax, and Powers of Attorney?
If you have complicated finances, or you have even a slightly more complex family structure, we would advise you to use a solicitor to draft your Will. Drafting a will to account for, for example, stepchildren can be complicated, and you could end up unintentionally leaving those closest to you with no inheritance.
With the specialist skill and knowledge of a solicitor, you can also plan to mitigate your inheritance tax liability, allowing you to leave more behind for your loved ones. Similarly, when making a Will, many people choose to make a Power of Attorney too. A Power of Attorney is for your own protection, so that should anything happen to you, you know your affairs will be taken care of as you wish.
How can Tozers help?
Making a Will is an important decision. It will have major implications for you family when you are gone. All solicitors have professional qualifications and are supervised by the Law Society. So if you are thinking of writing your Will, or updating one you already have, please get in touch with our dedicated Wills team who will be happy to help.