There are countless stories of celebrities who died without leaving a will such as Prince, Bob Marley, Pablo Picasso, and even Abraham Lincoln. Without a clear indication of their wishes, their families likely faced a long and stressful legal battle to determine how their estates would be divided.
These cautionary tales highlight the importance of having a will in place. However, writing a will doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your family avoids issues after you die. Indeed, many estate planning disputes arise because people create a DIY will with significant gaps or contradictions in it.
Aretha Franklin, for instance, left behind two handwritten wills after she died. Each named a different son as the beneficiary of her home, leading to a drawn out court battle to determine who would inherit what.
Unfortunately, DIY wills may be more common than you think. While many people still seek professional advice, Today’s Wills and Probate reports that 8% of people surveyed decided to write their own will.
With more options for online will writing services and DIY templates available, people may assume that they do not need professional assistance. However, writing your own will can lead to significant estate planning challenges.
The good news is, November is Will Aid month, and many solicitors offer free will writing services to clients who donate to the charity will writing scheme.
Read on to learn some of the big dangers of a DIY will and why you may want to take advantage of Will Aid month.
Your will may not be valid at all
One of the biggest dangers of a DIY will is that it may not be valid. As such, your estate may be treated as if you didn’t leave a will at all.
For a last will and testament to be considered legal in the UK, it must be:
- Made by a person over the age of 18
- Made voluntarily and without pressure
- Made by a person of sound mind
- In writing
- Signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses
- Signed by the two witnesses in the presence of the person making the will.
So, if you write down your wishes and leave it behind for your family, without any witnesses, your will is likely not valid.
Additionally, there are specific rules about who can and can’t be a witness. For example, it can’t be somebody who benefits from the will. If you name your spouse or civil partner as a witness, the will may still be legal, but they normally can’t inherit anything from your estate.
Unless you are a professional, you are likely unaware of these specific rules. Consequently, if you write your own will, it is easy to make simple mistakes that invalidate it.
In this case, your estate may be divided according to the laws of intestacy and the decisions made by the courts might not align with your own wishes.
Your wishes may be unclear
In some cases, a DIY will may be legally valid, but it could be unclear. It might be that you wrote multiple wills and did not date them correctly. Alternatively, you may have misspelled names or failed to mention certain assets.
As a result, it is up to your family, and often the courts, to decide what happens to your estate. This can lead to disputes that may drive a wedge between family members during a very difficult time.
Additionally, if somebody challenges the will and it goes through the courts, your family could lose a significant portion of your estate to legal fees.
Unfortunately, statistics show that will disputes are becoming more common.
Indeed, according to Today’s Wills and Probate, attempts to block probate – the process of administering a will – rose by 37% between 2019 and 2021.
Fortunately, if you work with a professional, they can help you create a comprehensive will that covers everything. This means that the executors of your will can quickly put your wishes into action and there is a reduced chance of disputes.
You risk disinheriting family members
When you make mistakes with your will, you could inadvertently disinherit certain people. This typically happens in blended families where estate planning becomes more complicated.
For example, if your will is unclear or invalid, your estate may be divided according to the laws of intestacy. Normally, your surviving spouse and any children from your current marriage will inherit your estate. However, children from the first marriage may be cut out altogether.
Alternatively, if you were to make a simple will leaving everything to your spouse when you die, your wishes may not be fulfilled if they remarry. Your surviving spouse could leave everything to children from a second marriage, for example.
These are just some examples of the estate planning difficulties that blended families face. It could be challenging to overcome these when writing a DIY will, so you may want to work with a professional.
Get in touch
If you have questions about estate planning, we can give you the guidance you need.
Please get in touch to find out how our team of VouchedFor Top Rated planners could help today.
This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.
The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning, tax planning or will writing.