DIY is for shelves, not Wills

Low in price, Do It Yourself Will Kits can be very appealing: they have instructions; they can be completed in your own time and nobody else needs to get involved in your affairs.  Sometimes, however, Wills aren’t as simple as a blank page template and when they go wrong, they go very wrong.  Below are just a few of the common issues with DIY Will kits.

  • Listing all assets can cause problems

Many people decide to list everything they currently own when faced with a blank page Will kit, the problem being that it is rather unlikely that every single thing you own will remain the same – you may choose to open new bank accounts or sell that watch.  Professionals in the field can assist you with all the clauses which will cover all eventualities to save you having to update your Will every time you buy something new.  It is also easy to miss things when trying to list all of your belongings.

  • Alternate Scenarios

It may be a difficult and harrowing task but it is necessary to consider all possible occurrences when writing a Will.  Many of us fail to consider back up plans should any beneficiaries, executors or trustees pre-decease us or become unable or unwilling to execute the wishes of the Will come the time.  It is also recommended to have second options for guardians for any children.

  • Knowing your beneficiaries

Any details of beneficiaries must be correct and concise.  Names and addresses are most useful.  “My best friend Julie” will not suffice as no doubt many people will come forward purporting to be Julie.

  • Clarity

Being concise is essential in Will writing, longwinded clauses should not be included.  It is best to simply state an item, followed by a beneficiary.  When working with a Will kit it is easy to get carried away and complicate things.

  • Somebody must know where your Will is stored

If nobody knows where your Will is stored, or equally important, that you’ve even written one, it is impossible for your wishes to be put in place.  It is vital that somebody you trust knows that you’ve made a Will and where it is.

  • Children and Trusts

A person under the age of 18 may not inherit anything directly.  Any money must be put into a trust until the child reaches the age specified in the Will, or if not specified, 18.  If well written, however, a Will can allow a child to access funds for important things like education or private healthcare.

  • Children and Guardians

When using a blank page Will kit it’s possible to miss things.  A part often overlooked is setting guardians for children under 18.  This is a decision not to be taken lightly and is certainly not one to be left to the courts.

  • Getting your figures right

When trying to distribute your estate between several people, for example children, and you do not wish to give equal proportions, the maths can become an issue. This is a part which needs to be worked out correctly and expressed clearly.

  • Neglecting legal formalities

An example of negligence of legal Estate Planning formalities is the story of the late Mr Aregbesola and his daughter Tinuola.  Mr Aregbesola made a Will – using a rather basic service – stating that he would leave half of the value of his London property to Tinuola.  The London property was owned jointly with Mr Aregbesola’s wife, who is not Tinuola’s mother.  Unfortunately, upon writing the Will, the joint tenancy agreement was not severed, meaning nothing went to Tinuola, the result – a lengthy and costly legal battle for a person already dealing with loss and grief.  With the use of basic Will kits, it is easy to neglect simple formalities such as the severing of joint tenancies.  Find the full story here – http://bit.ly/tgwills.

  • Failing to give all necessary powers to any executors or trustees

In a professionally written Will, there will typically be a part which gives all required consent to a person’s executors or trustees, in order for them to be able to deal with the estate.  This is a clause which is very important and is almost impossible to write without some professional direction.

  •  Beneficiaries must not serve as witnesses

It is a common misconception that your beneficiaries can witness the signing of a Will.  Due to the fact that this document gives them the right to inherit part of your estate, beneficiaries may not be witnesses as this has the potential to invalidate the document entirely.

  • Signing correctly is essential

In order to be valid, a Will must be witnessed by two adults; meaning the three of you, in the same place, signing the document at the same time.  Confusion can come from the fact that in Scotland and some areas of the United States of America until 1995, if your Will was written in your own handwriting, no witness signatures were required.

  • ‘Residual Clause’

A Will must have a section which describes what will happen to the remainder of the estate.  Once any debts have been settled, taxes have been paid and funeral costs are dealt with, any beneficiaries’ bequests will be made.  Any money left over following this – the residue – must be considered.

  • Changes must be made officially

Handwritten changes are a big no in Wills.  Any changes must be written into the Will correctly or they may not be considered.  Read the story of Eileen McCormack here – http://bit.ly/tgdiywills. Eileen’s cousin George hand wrote his Will despite being advised by family that it may not be valid.  George regularly made changes, and did so by penning side notes on to the document in varying coloured inks.  Sadly upon George’s death he left his family with the turmoil of having to go through the courts to determine where his money would go, adding charges to the whole process, diminishing the money that George was glad to be leaving for his loved ones, having taken much pride in it.

  • Conditional Bequests

For some of us, it is tempting to try to control things after we have gone.  There are many stories of people ending ‘I leave £50,000 to my son…’ with ‘if he marries’ or ‘if he graduates from university’.  Bequests like these can cause issues as the executor of the Will would have to hold on to the funds until the conditional action takes place.  Another example is ‘I leave my watch to my daughter provided she never sells it’, this is something which cannot easily be monitored.

 

It has been estimated that a problem with a Will can cost up to 10% of the value of an estate in fees, so on the basis of a £300,000 estate, that’s a loss of £30,000.  This is why it is really important to take careful consideration with Will writing.

Please feel free to contact us with any experiences you’ve had with DIY Wills (whether they’re positive or negative) or for further advice and information!  Call us on 0345 017 8250 or visit our website at http://bit.ly/legalhome.

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