A recent MoneyMail investigation has reported on a vast number of pitfalls with DIY will packs and online will writing services. These can be purchased for as little as £6.99 and are sold by popular high street and online retailers. Whilst the low cost can be very attractive, the risks associated with DIY wills is extremely high, with a common scenario being that the will is considered completely invalid or the will fails to implement wishes and intentions of the relevant person.
A will can be held to be invalid if it has not been executed correctly (for example, it must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses) or if there is a suspicion that the will may have been completed or signed under duress. When drafting a will, a solicitor would keep a record of a client’s wishes and would take steps to ensure that the client is not being placed under duress, and oversee the valid execution of the will. A DIY will service will not implement the same protective measures. For example, there is nothing to stop someone from completing a DIY will for a family member and encouraging them to sign it, demonstrating the high risks associated with DIY wills.
The investigation by MoneyMail found that many simple points that would need to be included in a will, had been missed in DIY will packages, or wills created from online service. For example, the £6.99 DIY will pack (available from Amazon) omitted to include a clause for a ‘substitute beneficiary’ in the instance that the individual that you had wanted to inherit your estate, had died before you. This could then lead to disputes between family members over who should inherit the estate and mean that the estate is not being distributed in accordance with the deceased wishes.
As a result of pitfalls such as these, there has been a 62% surge in the number of High Court disputes, with families battling over the estates and inheritance of their deceased loved ones and experts have called for will writing services to be better regulated. Therefore, whilst DIY wills and online will services can be cheap, the risks of dispute and potential financial costs to the deceased’s estate if these wills have not been done correctly, can be hugely expensive and far exceed the costs of having your will properly drafted by a solicitor.
A will is one of the most important documents you can put in place during your lifetime to ensure that your property and assets are dealt with in accordance with your wishes on death, and it is worth ensuring that this is done correctly.
For any advice on estate planning and drafting or reviewing your will, please contact Vassos Vassou, solicitor and Head of Private Client on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 016 9336.
Article by Emily Curtis-Bennett