Do It Yourself Wills – Dangers and Pitfalls

Anybody has the option of making their own will, there is no legal obligation to appoint a professional or a solicitor to do this on your behalf.

Perhaps this article explains why you should seek a professional Will Writer to ensure that your will is not only drafted correctly, but also ensures that the requirements under the appropriate Wills Act are complied with, and that your will is valid.

With the Covid 19 restrictions and the need to socially distance, you may think that writing your own will is the best and safest way to record your wishes. However, DIY Wills are not always the best approach and can come with risks.

We have spent years of seeing DIY wills fail the appropriate requirements test, and the estate which the person had written the will thought would pass, in fact does not do so, and falls into the intestacy rules, which is often not what they wanted to do.

There are inherent risks that can arise in DIY wills;

  • You may own a business and have an IHT issue – Do you know any reliefs that could be available to you.
  • You may have a large estate, and not know how to be IHT effective, i.e using trusts.
  • You may exclude children from your will and not know the true consequences of this decision.
  • Your will may not be legally valid – was it witnessed and signed correctly?
  • You have minor children, but no guardian has been appointed to look after your children in the event of your death.
  • No one has been appointed to distribute your estate after your death.
  • You may have a child with a gambling problem, but gift the money to them directly, knowing that they could use it for their gambling addiction, without being aware of a trust which you could put the money into that will be managed by somebody else (known as Trustees).
  • You may gift somebody in your will which is unclear and could lead to conflict.
  • You may ask your spouse to witness your will when they are due to inherit under your will, causing any gift to them to fail.

There has been a recent High Court case which provides an interesting story in respect of the DIY wills. It is all well and good us telling you about the pitfalls of DIY wills, but in a recent High Court case where the issue of a DIY will made headlines, when Terri Tibbles was awarded her father’s entire estate at a value of £300,000.

Terri Tibbles was close to her father, William, who was a car dealer, and she expected to inherit his estate when he died in 2018 at the age of 75.

William had made a will in March 2017, and alongside his will was a letter of wishes, in which he stated ‘Terri’s twin sister Kelly, along with his other daughters Cindy and Susan, had been a disappointment to him’. The same letter of wishes also referred to his son Paul being financially secure.

Three days after William’s death a second will was found, that was written on a piece of paper that appeared to be torn from a notebook, and this was handed to his solicitors. This will left his entire estate to be shared equally between Kelly, Susan, Cindy and Paul. Terri had been completely disinherited. Paul was named as the executor of the will, and when questioned Paul maintained the will was validly signed and witnessed the day before his father went into hospital. He also stated that the other sisters had looked after his father in his final months, and that his father was determined to amend his existing will.

The will was challenged by Terri, on the grounds that it would have been totally uncharacteristic for him to prepare a DIY will, considering his long history of previous dealings with solicitors. The document could just as well have been written and signed by anybody.

Judge Marsh ruled in Terri’s favour, on the grounds that following expert witness that the handwriting was not that of William, nor was the will signed by him. There was also no evidence of it having being written at William’s dictation, nor any explanation as to why Terri was being disinherited.

The ruling was made last year, but the will has only now recently been admitted to probate.

In any event, there is no substitute for professional advice, only by seeking a professional to write your will can you be sure your last wishes will to be recorded correctly, giving you and your loved one’s peace of mind that your affairs are in order.

To write your will, or to update an existing will, you will find there are a number of professional will writers and indeed solicitors who will do this for you.

You should take the appropriate advice and ensure also that the will is then stored in a reputable and secure place for use when the time comes. Some will writers and indeed solicitors do not store wills as a matter of policy, but there are a number of companies that will do this for you usually for a small yearly fee.

If you need advice please contact us.