Dangers of Making a Will without Professional Advice
07 September 2018
While it is possible to make a Will without professional advice, it can be very risky. Wills are legal documents which need to be drafted and executed in a specific way and it's easy for mistakes to be made which could render the Will, or the gifts contained within it, ineffective. If this happens, then your Estate would be distributed in a way that you wouldn't have wanted.
Making a Will
There is a lot involved in making a Will. Your wishes will need to be expressed clearly, avoiding any ambiguity and making arrangements for a number of eventualities. There is also specific wording that will need to be used in order for the Will to be legally valid.
For a Will to be legally valid in England and Wales, you must:
- Be over the age of 18
- Make the Will in writing (preferably typed not handwritten)
- Have testamentary capacity (be of sufficient mind to understand & approve the contents)
- Sign the Will in front of two independent witnesses (over the age of 18)
- Have your witnesses sign the Will in front of you.
The witnesses must not be beneficiaries or married to any of your beneficiaries, otherwise a particular gift (or even the whole Will, depending on the wording) will fail.
It's important to note that if you or your witnesses do not sign the document correctly, then this could invalidate your Will, even if it is just the omission of a minor legal formality. This is the sort of intricate detail that a professional Will writer would be able to spot and flag up, but it could be (and often is) very easily missed by the untrained eye.
The Dangers of DIY Wills
While making a Will may seem straightforward enough on the face of it, there are some very important points to consider.
For example, how do you know whether a particular asset will form part of your Estate and pass under your Will? There are a number of scenarios where assets can pass outside of the Will e.g. jointly owned property, pensions, life policies, foreign assets, business assets etc.
Do you know how to mitigate the possibility of claim being made after your death that you weren't of sound mind when making your Will?
If any of your Beneficiaries were to die before you, have you considered would happen to their share of your Estate?
What if your financial circumstances change between now and your death – would your Will still provide for everyone in the way you had intended?
These are just some of the factors that would be taken into consideration by experienced and professional Will writers, such as Co-op Legal Services. We would ensure that we had all of the necessary information so that a comprehensive Will could be drafted which would cater for all eventualities and be tailored to your individual circumstances.
DIY Wills are fraught with dangers.
When making a Will yourself, there's the very real risk that you will make a mistake. This happens all too frequently, either in terminology used, with the 'execution' or signing of the Will or misunderstanding how succession law works in England & Wales. Even a small oversight can make the document completely ineffective, and without the right expertise, this is something that can happen very easily.
If you are not familiar with the correct legal terminology to use when writing your Will, or if it is not executed correctly, then your Will could be deemed invalid which would mean it's disregarded when you die. If the Will is found to be invalid after your death, it cannot be used and any wishes you have expressed cannot be taken into consideration. Instead you will have died 'intestate', which is the legal term for dying without a legally valid Will in place. In such cases, the law will decide who inherits what, in line with strict inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy.
The reality is that making a Will is far more complex than you might imagine. After all, they are legal documents, and as such are full of intricacies and potential pitfalls. If you do not express your wishes clearly enough it may cause confusion, meaning your Estate is distributed in a way you had not intended, and potentially causing significant distress amongst your loved ones.
There are so many situations to consider which, on the face of it, look straightforward enough. However, when you dig a little deeper, there could actually be a series of potential consequences that you had not prepared for. That is why your Will needs to be drafted very carefully and professionally, with consideration given to different scenarios, or it could result in the wrong people inheriting a share of your assets, or the right people inheriting very little or nothing.
Using a Professional Will Writer
For these reasons, it is highly recommended that you use a professional Will writer when making a Will. Usually people choose to make a DIY Will because the cost is cheaper. However, it's futile to spend any money, time or effort making a Will if the Will is simply going to be found invalid after your death anyway.
This is why DIY Wills are not recommended, because the consequences of getting it wrong are so serious. By making a Will with advice and guidance from a Co-op Will writer, you can rest assured that your Will will be legally valid, and that your wishes will be clear after your death.
Furthermore, you should remember that different Will writers charge different fees. At Co-op Legal Services, we offer fixed cost Wills, so you know exactly how much you will have to pay from the very beginning. Our standard Single Wills (for one person) start from £150 (including VAT). It's a small price to pay for complete peace of mind.