The Disaster of DIY Wills

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A few weeks ago I was one of the guest speakers at the Property Developer’s Academy (PDA) training day in Birmingham. I always enjoy speaking to a room full of innovative property developers and investors, and Richard and Brynley Little from PDA understand the importance of Estate Planning. One of the most important pieces of advice that they give to their delegates is to “Begin with the end in mind”.

After my talk, Richard asked how many people in the fifty-strong conference room had a Will. Almost half of the delegates raised a hand. But when Richard then asked “How many of you have reviewed that Will in the last two years?” only a couple of hands remained in the air.

If you’ve got round to making a will, then the chances are you’re patting yourself on the back and thanking your lucky stars that you’re one of the 40% of people who will save their family from a legal and financial nightmare when they pass away. However, you shouldn’t be too quick with the self-congratulation, because a new study suggests that one in four people who have made a will may end up leaving a mess behind after-all.

The recent study found that 25% of people have written their will without any input from a legal professional. One in five either downloaded a template from the internet or bought one from a shop. Meanwhile, 5% just drew something up from scratch – without any concern at all for the legalities.

When it comes to the reasons why people choose DIY Wills, two fifths (37%) said they thought it was cheaper than going through a solicitor, while a quarter said they thought it would be quicker to go it alone. However, one in five opted for a DIY Will, because they didn’t want a stranger knowing their business.

One in fourteen people have either experienced a problem with a DIY will themselves, or know someone who has. Of this group, 46% said it led to a dispute and 39% of people said probate took longer as a result.

Top 5 mistakes
1. People often don’t think about the future. They may, for example, want to give something to their grandchildren, and name them all in the will. If another grandchild is born between the will being written and their death, that child would miss out unless wording is included to take account of future grandchildren yet to be born.

2. Some people include specific sums that they want to leave to particular people. If they have over-estimated or under-estimated, this may mean either they don’t have enough money to leave the sums mentioned, or individuals receive a far bigger or smaller percentage of the estate than the person writing the will thought they were giving them.

3. In other circumstances, the wording can be too vague, so a bequest could be interpreted in a number of ways, leaving real potential for the family to fall out over what their loved one really wanted.

4. Even something seemingly unimportant like how the will is bound can be vital. If it’s not done properly, and it looks as though pages were added or removed, it could tie it up for longer in probate.

5. Sometimes it’s the pure mechanics of how the will is drawn up that cause headaches, because people fail to follow rules for things like signing and witnessing it – which means the whole document could be invalid.

Regardless of whether your will was drawn up by a professional, or you opted for the DIY route, it’s important to review it regularly. This should be done whenever your circumstances change, and if things don’t change for a few years, you should review it anyway to ensure it still meets your needs.

Your Will is probably the most important legal document you will ever write. Ask a legal professional to help you – a basic Will costs between £100 – £150. This money will be well-spent because it will give you peace of mind. Contact Teresa Jones at Compass Legal Solutions for a free consultation – to see how she can help you with all aspects of Estate Planning. Email: teresa@compasslegalsolutions.co.uk or Tel: 07896 032419 or 01691 831591.