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What are the dangers of DIY Wills?

DIY Wills may be gaining in popularity but while the price may look attractive, the mistakes that can be made when Wills are not written by a regulated professional could mean you end up paying a much higher price.

The main reason for using asking a qualified lawyer to prepare your Will is they are fully regulated.

Not only does this mean all of their work is insured (which will provide you and your beneficiaries with an additional layer of protection) it also means they are accountable to the body they belong to.  In simple terms this means that if they fail to consistently deliver the highest quality work will put their accreditation and, by extension, their livelihood at risk.

Another important part of their regulatory requirements is to carry on their professional training throughout their career.  This training makes sure they are always up to date with the latest legislation and the latest thinking.

This Continued Personal Development (CPD) is central to them retaining their regulated status.  This continual assessment ensures they maintain the highest standards while they are preparing your Will, standards that will ensure no errors creep in and standards online Will writing services can’t guarantee.

The potential for error is probably the most important factor to consider.  Any errors in your Will could well render the entire document invalid.  If it is invalid you could force your family and friends into an expensive and stressful legal action to settle your estate.

And, drafting errors are not the only cause for concern.  If the Wills are not witnessed correctly, that again will make them invalid.  Every Will must be witnessed by two independent adults (neither of whom can be a beneficiary) at the same time and their names must be spelled and signed correctly.

To put the threat of these types of mistakes into sharper focus, in a recent survey Co-operative Legal Services claim that poorly drafted and incorrectly witnessed Wills are responsible for around 38,000 contested probate battles every year.

The emotional toll of these actions will be the most unsettling for the families, especially as they will already have arisen at a very difficult time.  However, the financial cost should not be overlooked.

On average 10% of a contested estate will be absorbed by the resulting legal fees.  This means that if we use the average value of an estate in the UK, £160,000, the additional probate fees are likely to exceed £16,000.

There are of course some who will advocate taking the DIY Wills route if your affairs are straightforward.  However, if you look closely many of those spokespeople are actually involved in their own non-regulated Will writing services in some way.  As a result Citizens Advice has publicly stated they think you should always go down the professional route irrespective of how routine you think your affairs are.

It’s also important to remember that even if your affairs are straightforward today, they will more than likely change.

The majority of DIY Wills do not allow you to update it if you marry, remarry or want to split properties or businesses you don’t yet own.  Similarly, a DIY or online Will is only concerned with the basics, the division of your assets and finances.  By contrast, a lawyer will take a wider view of your affairs.  They will tailor your Will to meet more specific needs, for example, to ensure your estate is executed in the most tax-efficient way so, for example, your beneficiaries Inheritance Tax (IHT) liability is as low as possible so that they can enjoy the maximum benefit from your legacy.

If you can see the benefits of asking a qualified and experienced legal professional to draft your Will, you need to choose your lawyer wisely.  If this is the first time you have selected a law firm, we would always suggest you use two proven selection criteria:

  1. Ask your friends and family who they would recommend
  2. Make sure the lawyers you are considering is accredited with the Law Society and a regulatory body like the Solicitors Regulation Authority

If you would like to find out how we would approach drafting our Will or have any questions about updating your current Will, please email deniece.lines@collinshoy.com or call Deniece on 0208 866 1820.