Should I write my own will?
Writing your own will might seem like a good idea, surely it can’t be that difficult? All you’re saying is where you want your property to go when you pass on. Your last will and testament is easily one of the most important documents you will ever put together. There are strict laws governing wills and getting them wrong can mean it’s not valid, or not distributed in the way you intended. So getting it right is essential to avoid any future problems and unnecessary strife for your loved ones.
How difficult could it be?
Online will writing services, and Do-It-Yourself will kits make it seem easy and cheap to create a will, they make wild claims such as it can be done in 10 minutes and at a super low cost. Now we aren’t saying putting together a Will is a long, complicated and expensive process, but it is one you should take expert advice on, experts who can take the complexity out of it while at the same time making sure that everything is in order, so you end up with a secure, valid will.
When can you write your own will?
Firstly we should be clear that in some straightforward circumstances it is possible to write your own will. For example, if you’re married or in a civil partnership and have children, and want to leave everything to your spouse and eventually on your children. However to avoid your will being declared invalid there are certain ways things have to be written and witnessed, and inheritance laws and tax may change after you write your will which may disrupt how your estate is distributed.
So why not use an out-of-the-box or online will service?
No one size fits all.
Out of the box will forms are typically designed to cover only the basic estate planning needs. Everyone’s circumstances vary, what you need will be different from what your next door neighbour needs. A basic form or online service caters to all and won’t be able to identify your personal circumstances. It could mean your loved ones are left trying to untangle issues these services didn’t address.
You only get one chance
Your will comes into play once, there are no second chances to redo it when the time comes. If it’s not correct, then your family could be left with a complicated mess they need to sort out. Which could take months and cost more in solicitor fees than the cost of getting a Will through estate planners.
Any Will you put together using these services won’t be checked by a solicitor so you won’t have any reassurance that it will work in the way you intend.
Watch out for disclaimers
Just about every do-it-yourself kit or online service comes with a disclaimer; something similar to “The information we’re providing is not legal advice and is not a substitute for legal advice.” Any Will you put together using these services won’t be checked by a solicitor so you won’t have any reassurance that it will work in the way you intend.
You get what you pay for
Not many of us fix our own car or do building work on our own houses, we don’t even cut our own hair. The reason being that we don’t have the knowledge or the time to attempt them ourselves. So although it may seem simple and cheap to do things yourself in the short term, the long term result may not be held up to legal scrutiny and cost more to sort out in legal fees.
We can identify pitfalls
As one-size-fits-all are designed to suit everyone’s needs, they won’t be able to identify potential pitfalls in your will, such as is it really a good idea to pass everything to your new spouse which could leave your children with nothing? Is your 18-year-old child really able to handle being an executor? Is there anyone who could have a claim to your estate and potentially contest your will? Perhaps you’re not fond of your children’s spouse and don’t want them to benefit from your estate. We’ve seen it all and can give you personalised advice.
We can help you with more than a will
As we don’t just specialise in wills, we can also advise you on other estate planning tools such as Trusts and Inheritance Tax planning. These can give you more control over how your estate is distributed, such as safeguarding part of your estate for a particular loved one or avoiding sideways disinheritance when you remarry. We can also advise you on how best to manage your estate to reduce inheritance tax bills.
Things can change
Personal circumstances can change; a will which covers you and your spouse may not be good enough when you expand your family, when they go on to have families of their own, or if you or they get remarried. Added to this, inheritance laws and tax can frequently change throughout your lifetime. A DIY will won’t cover these, and you may not even know you need to make a change.
Our low-cost updating service which means you can continue to update your will when things change.
So what if it goes wrong?
If your will isn’t valid then how your estate is distributed is decided by the rules of intestacy. Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under these rules. This is fine if you have simple circumstances, but it gets more complicated if not. The rules of intestacy state that:
If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the person who died and the estate is valued at more than £250,000, the partner will inherit:
- all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died,
- and the first £250,000 of the estate
- And half of the remaining estate
- The remaining half will be shared between any surviving children, or on to grandchildren or great-grandchildren if their parents are no longer around.
If you are not married or have children, then the estate will pass to the closest relative, which could be parents, siblings even nieces or nephews.
As you can see this is a complicated arrangement which leaves you with little control over what happens to your estate.
If you would like advice on a DIY will you’ve created previously or want to talk to us about putting together a will or any other areas of estate planning, you can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by using our contact us form or call us on 020 8619 0358.
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