Beware the Homemade Will: Exploring the dangers

It is always a good idea to put a Will in place, whatever stage of life you are at. However, there are risks if a Will is not correctly drafted and many legal cases have stemmed from someone making a DIY Will. We take a look at the potential problems and dangers of having a homemade Will.

Strict rules apply to Wills and if, for example, a Will is not properly signed and witnessed, it will be invalid. If your Will is not valid, then an earlier valid Will takes effect instead. If you don’t have an earlier valid Will, your estate is intestate and passes to close relatives in strict order of priority by the Rules of Intestacy. This might not be what you wanted.

Dangers of making your own Will include:

Inheritance disputes

If a Will is ambiguous or poorly drafted, beneficiaries may be more inclined to challenge it. A well-drafted Will, clearly states your wishes, helping reduce the risk of disagreements or misunderstandings arising. Legal action can be costly and potentially drain your estate of funds. It can also cause irreparable damage to family relationships.

Disputes often occur because those left behind disagree over what the deceased’s wishes were. Taking professional advice means that you can discuss exactly what you want, and ensure that your Will accurately reflects this.

If your loved ones know that an expert professional worked with you to set out how your estate is to be passed on, they will have more confidence in your Will.

Your Wills and estate planning professional can give you advice about potential difficulties. For example, if you were intending to cut someone out of your Will whom you currently support. They will be able to discuss with you the implications of doing so.

They would also be able to give evidence as to your testamentary capacity or soundness of mind, should this ever be questioned. Also they can confirm that you understood the contents of your Will.

Your estate might not pass to those you want to receive it

If you make your own Will, there is a risk that your assets might not be passed on to your choice of beneficiary. For example, if you leave your half of your shared home to your spouse or partner. In turn they have stated this will pass to your children in their Will, you have no guarantees that this will happen.

They could remarry or simply change their mind and decide to leave your share to someone else. Also there is the risk that the money is lost in a poor investment or to fraud.

There is a way to avoid this happening. Use your Will to leave your spouse a life interest in your assets. Meaning that they can live in the property for as long as they wish. When they no longer need it, your share will pass to your choice of beneficiary. Your spouse or partner will not be able to leave it in their Will, as it was only theirs to use during their lifetime.

It is always advisable to have a professional draft a Will with this type of provision. The clauses need to be clearly and correctly worded for the trust to take effect.

Will is not correctly executed

If your Will is not correctly signed and witnessed, it will not be valid. For example, if a beneficiary or relative were to witness a Will, any gifts to them would be void.

Handwritten changes to a Will can also invalidate it. If you want to make changes to your Will, you should have a new Will drafted.

Any professional Will writer will conduct an attest with you on completion of your Will. This is to go through your documents with you and ensure you understand everything within them and how to sign them correctly.

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