Is a DIY (Do It Yourself) Will such a good idea?
DIY wills are cheap but are they cheap in the long run?
Ideally, a will is a clear, thorough document that precisely represents your testamentary wishes. Your will is what determines how and to whom your property is distributed after your death. To save your loved one’s hassle, legal battles, and mounting fees, you want to leave behind a will that is unambiguous and completely in compliance with the relevant law.
Unfortunately, some testators are doing just the opposite. They decide to write their wills and unknowingly create a DIY will that is often rife with errors, opening the door for legal disputes or – worse – for the Crown to claim all of their assets. Often a do-it-yourself will result in your executor being left to pick up the pieces and your assets are not distributed according to your wishes. This unpleasant outcome could have been entirely avoided by using a specialist probate solicitor to write your will and see that it is properly executed.
Turn on the television, pick up a magazine, log onto the Internet…it won’t be long before you come across an advertisement for a DIY will writing kit. Do it yourself will writing services are becoming quite prevalent. These services do not usually employ a specialist probate solicitor. Rather, they hire individuals with no special legal knowledge or training. Often you won’t even save money by using one of these amateur services. Not only are you taking an enormous gamble, you’re also often spending more than you would if you instructed a specialist probate solicitor.
Unlike DIY will writing services or guidebooks, solicitors are held legally and ethically accountable for their actions and the quality of their work and most importantly they are insured for negligence which most do it yourself will writing services are not. Solicitors in the United Kingdom are overseen on many levels and by several organizations. Statutes govern their profession, and all solicitors are also overseen by the Law Society.
As for financial recourse, the law requires a specialist probate solicitor to maintain negligence insurance. They must also contribute to a compensation fund. To stay up to date with the most modern precedents, solicitors are required to continue their education to have their practice certificate renewed each year. None of these safeguards are in place when it comes to DIY will kits or services.
There are no laws that require you to use a solicitor to write your will. In theory, a good do-it-yourself will is a valid and legally binding document. In practice, however, many DIY will turn out to be invalid because the testator failed to meet one of the many intricate and complex requirements of an enforceable will. These are the requirements of a valid will and other important considerations that do it yourself will often fail to meet or account for:
- Wills must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses, neither of whom is a beneficiary of the will.
- You must provide for the distribution of all of your assets in your will. Any remaining assets can be claimed by the Crown.
- Certain events, such as births, deaths, marriage and divorce, change not only your life but also your testamentary wishes. Your will should take account of these contingencies in advance to prevent a predictable occurrence from completely disrupting your intentions.
- A divorce has the legal effect of voiding previous executorships and all dispositions made to the former spouse. A will must be promptly adjusted after a divorce to maintain the testator’s intent.
- Making a codicil is one way to make changes to a will that has already been written. Failure to meet the requirements of a valid codicil will result in the changes being ineffective and could even affect the rest of the contents of the will.
- The testator’s dependents must receive adequate support under the terms of the will.
Take a moment to consider your property and its value. The average home in the UK, for instance, is worth several hundred thousand pounds. A tremendous amount, both personally and financially, is at stake. After you pass away, what happens to all your property hinges on whether or not you have left behind a valid will. With so much at stake, do you want to rely on a DIY will?