Are Homemade Wills Legally Valid?
28 June 2019
While it is technically possible for a homemade Will to be legally valid, homemade or DIY Wills are often poorly drafted, contain mistakes or are incorrectly executed. As a result, they are commonly found to be invalid or ineffective after death.
Drafting a homemade Will when you don't have the necessary legal expertise to do so can be a risky approach for this reason. If your Will is found to be invalid or ineffective after you die, then your Estate could be distributed in a way you wouldn't have wanted.
Potential Pitfalls of Homemade Wills
A Will is a formal legal document so needs to be drafted in the correct way in order to be effective. It's easy to make mistakes and attempting to draft a Will without the necessary legal expertise can potentially render it useless or even harmful.
There is set criteria that must be met when making a Will in order for it to be legally valid. Consequently, there are a number of potential pitfalls in drafting a homemade Will. Here are a few examples...
Firstly, you need to have what's called 'testamentary capacity' to make a Will which means that you need to fully understand what you're doing and the implications of it. If there is any doubt as to whether you had testamentary capacity at the time of making your Will, then your will could be challenged. This possibility can be easily overlooked when someone makes a homemade Will.
Secondly, your Will needs to use the correct technical terminology and avoid any ambiguity in order for the gifts within it to be effective. If anything is unclear then then gifts might not be made in the way that you had hoped. Even a minor mistake could raise discrepancy and ultimately render the gift or Will ineffective.
Thirdly, in order for a Will to be legally valid it needs to be signed and witnessed in the correct way. If this does not occur, then it will not have been executed correctly and will not be legally valid.
These are just a few examples of the common pitfalls to be aware of, but this is far from an exhaustive list.
What Happens if a DIY Will Is Found Not to Be Valid?
If the validity of the Will is called into question after your death, or if some of the Will is ambiguous, then this can result in lengthy and expensive legal disputes after your death. This could significantly reduce the value of your Estate and the amount available for distribution.
If the Will is found to be invalid altogether, then the Estate will be dealt with in accordance with the previous Will you had in place or, if you hadn't made a Will before, in line with inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy. These rules determine who is entitled to administer the Estate as well as who is entitled to inherit from it.
The Rules of Intestacy place relatives of the deceased in a strict order of priority, starting with the deceased's spouse, then the deceased's children, and so on. Certain family members, such as unmarried partners and step-children, are not recognised at all by the Rules of Intestacy, so could be entitled to receive nothing from the Estate.
Getting It Right
The best way to ensure that your Will is clear about how you wish to provide for your loved ones in the way that you choose is to get your Will professional drafted by a regulated Will writing specialist such as Co-op Legal Services. While this may cost more than drafting a homemade Will, by instructing a professional you know that your wishes have been clearly set out in a legally valid Will.
Co-op Legal Services is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and offers transparent, fixed fee pricing. Our standard Single Wills cost from £150 including VAT.