DIY Wills Blamed for Rise in Contested Estates

23 May 2019

A steep increase in the number of contested Estates in the past year has been attributed to the rising popularity of DIY Wills. In the last year, the number of inheritance disputes heard by the High Court has increased by over 60%, from 227 to 368.

The Dangers of DIY Wills

While it is technically possible to make a legally valid Will without professional support, this can be a risky approach to take. Wills are official legal documents, which need to contain exact terminology and be written in the correct way. It's also highly recommended that Wills are written in a way that provides for multiple eventualities, as no one knows what the future will hold.

Drafting a Will yourself, without the necessary experience and expertise, can lead to serious issues in the administration of your Estate after you die. When making a DIY Will, it's all too easy to make a mistake, use ambiguous wording which can be misinterpreted, or invalidate the Will entirely by not having it witnessed in the correct way.

This can ultimately render the Will worthless and also cause stress for your loved ones if disputes arise during the Probate process.

Invalidating Your Will or Disinheriting Loved Ones

If you choose to make a Will, then you are obviously conscious of the implications of dying without one and have decided to take steps to avoid your Estate being distributed in the wrong way after you die. However, if your Will isn't properly drafted then your Estate could still be administered in line with the Rules of Intestacy, as though you had died without a Will in place at all.

There are countless instances where this might happen, such as if your Will is proven to be invalid or if all of your named beneficiaries die before you, for example.

Even if your Will is found to be valid, the way that it is written could still result in your Estate not being distributed in the correct way.

For example, say that at the time of writing your Will, you have £150,000 in your Estate. You want your nephew to have £15,000 and you want to leave the remaining £135,000 to your son. By the time you die, the money in your bank has depleted to £50,000, and you have £30,000 in outstanding debts. Once the debt has been settled, your Estate has £20,000 left.

In your Will, there is a pecuniary legacy (a specific sum of money) of £15,000 to your nephew and a residuary legacy (the remaining Estate) to your son. What you may not have realised at the time of making your Will is that pecuniary legacies will always be paid before residuary legacies. This means that out of the remaining £20,000, your nephew will receive £15,000 and your son will receive £5,000.

For more information see Legacies in Wills and Probate Explained.

This is just one example, but there are countless ways in which you could inadvertently either disinherit one of your loved ones or fail to provide for them in the way that you'd hoped. If you instruct a professional Will Writing firm, such as Co-op Legal Services, to draft your Will for you, then your Will Writer can help you to consider alterative eventualities that you might not otherwise have thought of.

Contesting an Estate

If the terms of your Will are not what your family expect, or are not what they would have wanted, they may be try to prove that it is invalid. A Will can be challenged if it is suspected that the person making it was acting under the influence of someone else or that they didn't have capacity to understand the implications of their Will at the time of making it.

At Co-op Legal Services, our Will Writers will ask a series of questions at the time of making your Will to confirm with you that this is not the case, and this will be held on record. Therefore a professionally drafted Will with Co-op is more likely to stand up against such a claim than a DIY Will.

For more information, see How to Cut Someone out of Your Will.

Avoiding Disputes after Death

The best way to avoid your Will being contested after you die is to have your Will professionally drafted by a professional Will Writer. This is going to cost more money than making a DIY Will, but if there's a chance that your DIY Will could be found to be invalid after you die, then writing it at all will have been a waste of your time and money.

A professional Will Writer can draft a legally binding Will on your behalf, setting out your wishes in a clear and transparent way, avoiding any ambiguity and accommodating all possible eventualities.

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