One question we are often asked is, ‘can I just do my Will myself’?
Potential clients wish to know if they have to use a Solicitor to make their Will when perhaps they have the alternative option of a homemade Will kit to purchase at a lesser price.
The answer is yes, you are able to make a Will in whatever manner you wish. However, we would warn to exercise caution over a ‘do it yourself’ approach and our best advice would always be to seek the advice of a qualified solicitor when it comes to making your Will.
While it is perfectly possible to make your own Will and people continue to do so (it has previously been held that a wish written on an egg shell constituted a valid Will!) unless you are taking legal advice, it may be that you do not realise the implications of what you write. Even a purchased Will ‘kit’ usually caters only for very simple Wills, meaning you may not consider everything that you should.
What can go wrong? Writing a Will is simple!
Time and time again, we as Solicitors encounter the pitfalls of homemade Wills when it is already too late.
Many people seem to be aware, for example, that a beneficiary named in a Will should not also witness the testator sign it.
Far fewer people know that it is not just the beneficiary who should not witness a Will, but neither should any beneficiaries’ spouse or civil partner. While the signature of the spouse or civil partner will not invalidate the entire Will, it does invalidate the gift made to that specific beneficiary. If the testator was gifting that beneficiary their entire ‘residuary estate’ (essentially, everything that they have) - a catastrophic result.
The formalities for executing (signing) the Will are almost as important as the correct content, and Solicitors know exactly the requirements to ensure that a Will is deemed valid.
Keeping your Will up-to-date
We also see homemade Wills to include only gifts of specific items to specific people with no disposal of the residuary estate (whatever remains of the estate other than these specific items). This may be because when the testator wrote it, these items were all that he had.
In a case we dealt with recently, it was a different story ten or twenty years down the line, as the Testator did not get around to amending or making a new Will.
As we proved, any estate that is not disposed of by a Will passes via the rules of intestacy. This is a statutory list governing exactly who receives the estate in the absence of a valid Will. In the above case, the testator died without a spouse or civil partner but with one daughter with whom he had no relationship. This child was not one of the beneficiaries named in the Will, and quite clearly his intention was not to provide for her.
Unfortunately, in acquiring additional assets by his date of death which of course comprised the residuary estate, they did indeed pass to his daughter by virtue of the intestacy rules.
Legally, this is what had to happen.
Writing an effective Will is more complex - think of Estate Planning
It may be that your simple, homemade Will is executed perfectly and so is indeed valid and able to take effect on your death… should the Will have been so simple? Or would estate planning have benefited your beneficiaries by reducing inheritance tax payable? Or would more of your estate (or indeed anything) have been protected for your intended beneficiaries by inclusion of a trust in your Will?
Many couples we meet initially intend to leave everything to their partner, trusting that they will pass on the estate to their children on the second death.
What if the surviving partner changes their Will following the first death, though? Or what if they simply had to go into care for which the house you previously owned together is taken to cover their fees?
You may not even realise the need to consider this, and would be best placed to speak to a solicitor to ensure the maximum possible benefit of your estate for your intended beneficiaries.
What if something truly terrible happens?
Alternatively, you might be satisfied to leave matters very simply, perhaps all on to your partner and then on to your children as outlined above.
But have you considered what would happen if you all died together at the same time, though? What if something should happen when you all travel together in the same car or plane? While awful to think about, such tragedies do happen and surprisingly, most people do not consider what they would want to happen to their estate in such circumstances. If your Will did not provide for such an event, your estate would pass via the intestacy rules which again, might not give the results you would hope for.
How can Cunningtons help?
Our Wills and Probate Department specialise in the drafting of Wills, meaning that they are able to advise clients on how best to capture their particular wishes. Our team will assist from your initial instructions right through to the drafting of your Will and ultimate signing of the document/s to ensure that all necessary formalities for a valid and effective Will are complied with.
How much does a Will cost?
- A simple, single Will (single person) - £130 plus VAT
- A single Will to include a right of residence, life interest, or discretionary trust - £300 plus VAT
- Simple mirror Wills (two persons) - £200 plus VAT
- Mirror Wills to include a right of residence, life interest, or discretionary trust - £600 plus VAT
- Severance of joint tenancy (if required) - £100 plus VAT per property