Do I need a lawyer to write my will?

Having a valid will in place is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your loved ones in the event of your death, but with the cost of living crisis continuing to squeeze household finances it may be tempting to consider whether you can write your own will without involving a lawyer. A quick online search will throw up dozens of DIY packages and templates to help you write your will, but there are a number of hidden dangers to consider.

You must make sure your will is properly executed

To be valid, a will must be signed and witnessed following the correct legal process. Failing to execute the will is one of the most common reasons for wills to be contested, and is almost always due to a will being drawn up without a legal professional. A qualified lawyer will ensure that your will is properly executed.

Due to the pandemic, the government introduced rules allowing for virtual witnessing of wills and these rules have been extended until 31 January 2024, but there are strict rules about how this must be done and it is considered a last resort. In most circumstances, you will be expected to arrange physical witnessing of your will.

Red-pen amendments do not work

People change, as do their priorities. This means that a will (even with the help of a solicitor) can quickly become outdated. You may get married, you may get divorced, you may have children, you may start a business – all of these things could affect your will. For example, a marriage will automatically invalidate a will unless it was drafted in anticipation of said marriage. Red pen changes or cross-outs will not be valid and must be legally executed by way of a codicil or a new updated will.

Your words and your intentions are two separate things

“I gift my car to my daughter.” Simple enough, right?

What if the Testator/Testatrix owned two cars. What if one of those cars was a cheap run-around and the other was a valuable sports car. Which would be the gift to the daughter?

If the gift is too remote or uncertain, the gift may fail and fall back into your residual estate. Your words must reflect your intentions effectively, limiting the possibility for misinterpretation to be drawn.

Hollywood video wills are not valid (in the UK!)

Some people have asked if they can record their wishes by way of video (reminiscent of a number of Hollywood films where the beneficiaries crowd into the room and gasp when things don’t go to plan!).

In short, this would not be valid in the UK because of the requirements of the Wills Act 1837.

Disputes over wills are becoming more common

Getting your will wrong can have serious consequences. Will disputes have been on the rise in recent years, with as many as 60% of people saying that they would be willing to contest a will in court if they needed to. Rules on costs in probate disputes have actually made it more attractive to raise a claim. But it is usually difficult to challenge a well written and properly executed will. A DIY will may save you money in the short-term, but you are potentially deferring the cost (plus much more!) to your estate upon your death.

Contact us on 01392 256854 for a personalised quote, or to discuss your requirements with a member of the private client team.