Writing your Will should be easy, shouldn’t it? You don’t actually need to talk to a solicitor, do you? We explain what can go wrong if you opt for a DIY Will.
A DIY Will is a popular option
The large number of searches on the Internet for the phrase “how to make a will for free” is a reminder that although people feel they should have a Will, they don’t feel that they should pay for it.
Writing a Will can be fairly complex, especially when children are involved. You also have to work out how much you own (your assets) and how much you owe (your liabilities), both of which are important when you are deciding what should happen when you are no longer there to make decisions.
And don’t forget that whatever Will you write also needs to be administered by an executor of your choice – that’s a job you assign to someone you fully trust.
As you can see, there are a few complications when compiling your Will, which is why after considering getting a free Will form on the Internet, many people decide to talk to a Wills and Probate solicitor instead.
Why Joanne Abraham’s DIY Will was a costly mistake
In a piece in The Law Gazette, Bianca Castro highlights the case of mistakes made by Joanne Abraham (Jo) – a woman who knew she was dying – when she chose not to consult a solicitor when writing and rewriting her Will.
Jo wrote a Will in 2008, which she then rewrote in 2019 using a form she had found on the Internet. In the 2019 rewrite, she made her youngest son, Simon – out of 3 children – the executor.
Although Jo’s clear intention was to divide everything equally between her children, the judge in the case could see that she was relying on her youngest son to fairly distribute assets, rather than expressing her wishes clearly in her Will.
The result of this mishandling of Jo’s estate was that the earlier Will from 2008 was found to be more in keeping with Jo’s wishes:
I find that what Jo wanted to achieve was to secure the benefit of her estate for her children, apportioned to reflect their life-time gifts, and that that benefit and apportionment was to be entrusted to Simon to implement. Clearly, the 2019 will did not achieve that.
I have little hesitation in finding that Simon and Hilary have failed to discharge the burden of proof to establish that Jo when she signed the 2019 Will understood: (a) what was in the 2019 will when she signed it; and (b) (more emphatically) what its effect would be.His Honour Judge Berkley
So instead of saving money by changing her Will for free, Jo caused a rift between her children while taking up court time and money to decide what she wanted to happen after her death.
If you don’t have any money, why make a Will?
Some people don’t bother writing their Will because they don’t think they have any assets to worry about. You might be surprised – when all is said and done, most of us leave something of monetary value. You might not know it, but we’ve all seen programmes like Antiques Roadshow when an old pot turns out to be a Ming vase, or all those 60s gig posters are valued at thousands. Shouldn’t you decide who keeps your treasures once you are gone, rather than following the Rules of Intestacy?
And, of course, if you have any dependants, you absolutely must have a valid Will. Your legacy is not just about money, it’s also a question of who will care for your children when you can’t.
Making a legally valid Will is too expensive!
As you can see, it can be very expensive in time, money, and emotional strain if you do NOT ask for a solicitor to help you write your Will.
And having a fully qualified solicitor to help draft your Will is not too expensive – at Cunningtons we charge £200 + VAT for a simple Will, and £300 + VAT for a basic mirror Will for a couple; prices are correct as of August 2023. Check our Fees page for accurate prices. You can talk to Wills departments at our Braintree, Brighton, Chelmsford, Croydon, Hornchurch, Solihull or Wickford branches.