18th May 2020
The impact of COVID-19 is wide-ranging and is affecting almost every individual in one way or another. The daily (or sometimes hourly) news bulletins with the latest devastating death figures have pushed the thought of death to the front of many people’s minds. As a consequence of this many people are realising the importance of ensuring they have a valid and up to date will to deal with their assets on their death.
Many people have more time on their hands with less commuting time when working from home, less socialising with friends and some members of the public being furloughed from work. It may be tempting to consider using this time to write your own will to avoid the meetings with a solicitor and the legal costs associated with instructing a solicitor. However, be warned there are risks associated with DIY wills and these need to be carefully weighed against the costs of a solicitor.
There can be a number of problems that can arise when people choose to write their own wills or use a template they found online. The main problem that could arise is that if there is an error in the will then it would render the will invalid. This can be an error in terms of the drafting of the document, the witnessing of the document or even an error in how the will is stored and looked after following execution.
If there is an error in the will then this could leave your loved ones with a long battle ahead of them to get the matter resolved. This will inevitably take time and will cost money. The money will typically come from your estate – which would mean the amount of money left to your loved ones will reduce. Not to mention the level of stress this would put on your loved ones at a time when they will be grieving.
Whilst your loved ones could try and rectify any mistakes in your will to ensure your wishes are carried out. This is not usually possible. If the mistakes cannot be rectified then the wishes expressed within your DIY will may not be followed. People may not inherit when you intended them to, or people who you did not want to inherit may be entitled to your estate. The amounts or the gifts of possessions which you left to certain people may change.
If your will contains provisions which are likely to upset a particular person, say you have chosen to disinherit a family member, or to leave unequal gifts to your children then the attendance note that solicitors make when taking instructions would prove invaluable when it comes to defending any claims against your estate from these individuals. This attendance note would confirm why the solicitor believed you had the mental capacity to draft the will and would evidence that the solicitor did not believe you were being put under any pressure to write the will. If you were to write the will without the help of a solicitor there would not be anyone to put these arguments forward, meaning the chance of a successful claim would be higher.
Law firms are required to have professional indemnity insurance. Therefore, whilst it is highly unlikely there would be any mistakes or issues with your will if written by a solicitor, your beneficiaries could make a claim for compensation should that unlikely event occur.
A solicitor will not only take your instructions on how you would want your assets to pass on your death they will advise you on numerous other matters. They will know ways in which you may be able to save on inheritance tax, ways in which you may be able to plan for care home fees or ways in which you could protect minor or vulnerable beneficiaries.
We offer a service when we write wills where we would store the will for you free of charge. There is no time limit for this and we will hold the will until you tell us that you wish to change or destroy the will or until you pass away and your executors collect the will. This eliminates any risk that the chain of custody of the will could be questioned or that the will could be lost or damaged. Some solicitors charge a fee for storing the will so it is worth checking this with them.
There are plenty of other reasons why you should not write your own will. However, if you have any concerns or wish to discuss anything further then please contact one of our Private Client Solicitors on 01179 731 391. We are here and ready to help you in any way we can.