05 July 2018
Online and DIY wills – are they really a cheaper alternative?
Creating a will is a sensible way for people to control what happens to their estate when they pass away. And while it’s tempting to choose a DIY or online will for less than £30, it can be a dicey approach because if mistakes are made or if the strict witnessing rules are not followed correctly, the document could become unenforceable. Thomas Bird, solicitor at B P Collins, advises on what to watch out for.
It’s easy to make mistakes when creating your own DIY or online will as its execution can be interpreted in several ways. For example, many people fail to secure two witnesses and if they do, some appoint a beneficiary, a minor or ask them to sign at different times – all of which makes the will invalid. Other errors include misspelled names and failure to sign the document. These problems cannot be easily remedied once the person who created the will passes away, so it’s better to seek expert advice to ensure that correct procedures are followed and the will remains effective.
Change in circumstances
Problems can also arise if your circumstances change, as many DIY wills cannot accommodate this. With increasingly complex family structures, particularly with the divorce rate continuing to rise and more people having second families – huge life changes are becoming ever more likely. Some handwritten notes on the original will to highlight your new decisions will not suffice.
Or what if you left everything to your wife in your basic will, but she has passed away and your will isn’t updated? Your wishes will become invalid and when you pass away, intestacy rules will then apply which may not be to your liking.
Have you thought of everything?
You may feel that you’re the only person who knows your life better than anyone else and that you’ve thought everything through before creating your DIY will. But there may be situations that you’ve not considered that could impact on your estate. This is why it’s useful to seek independent, expert advice. Solicitors have the expertise to challenge your rationale and encourage you to consider other scenarios beyond your current circumstances. With all options considered, your will should remain binding despite any changes that come your way.
Involving an experienced wills, trusts and probate solicitor is particularly advisable if you have a sizeable estate as they can advise on tax efficient options and trust provisions to protect your assets.
The implications of an invalid will can be extremely serious for your beneficiaries. Not only do you risk leaving your loved ones with a financial mess at a time when they could be feeling very emotional, but your legacy could be seriously depleted by legal bills or tax which could have been avoided.