Making your Will is one of the most important things you’ll ever do. But do you need a solicitor, or can you draft your own? This article explores Wills at home.
Legally speaking, it’s perfectly acceptable to draft your own Will. So long as it has been properly worded and meets all the necessary requirements it will be valid. But just because you can do it, it doesn’t mean that you should. Here’s why.
The need for clarity
A Will must be clear and unambiguous, which is not always easy. If the meaning is not obvious or it could be interpreted in different ways, then there is a risk that the Will might not be valid or that a dispute could arise.
If a Will is not completely straightforward, then there is a risk that if a mistake is made in the drafting, it may be invalid. If so, then your estate would be distributed to beneficiaries in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy (the Rules) or in accordance with any previous Will that is still in existence. The Rules have a strict order in which relatives inherit and it could mean that some of your loved ones miss out. For example, cohabitees and stepchildren do not inherit anything under the Rules.
The law surrounding execution of a Will is very strict and, if the document is not properly signed and witnessed, then it will not be legally valid.
A rise in disputed Wills
Ministry of Justice figures have recorded a steady and substantial increase in disputes over Wills in recent years. Common reasons for this include:
- More complex family structures, such as an increase in blended families, second and third marriages and unmarried couples living together;
- An ageing population combined with an increase in dementia;
- Rising property values, resulting in high-value estates that are worth contesting;
- An increase in the number of people leaving money to charity.
Even where a valid Will has been made, it can potentially be challenged and overruled. The estate’s executors are required by law to protect the estate for the beneficiaries and could become involved in expensive litigation which could drain the estate of funds. This is also likely to be a long, drawn-out process and may be very damaging to family relationships.
By putting a robustly drafted Will in place and, where possible, discussing with your loved ones the decisions you have made, you can minimise the risk of a disagreement arising.
Inheritance Tax can amount to a sizeable bill for your estate, however there are legitimate ways to reduce the liability by making certain provisions in your Will. Inheritance Tax planning can be a complex area and it is advisable to seek independent advice to ensure you are structuring your estate in the most efficient way possible.
Protecting your assets
There is a risk that, if your Will is not thoroughly thought-out, that your assets may not end up where you would wish.
For example, if you have remarried, then your Will or the Rules of Intestacy could pass your estate to your spouse. Even if they have a Will in place leaving money to any children you may have had in a previous relationship, there is a risk that this Will could be changed or the money spent elsewhere, such as in care home fees.
A Will can be used to protect assets for future generations. If you have remarried and you want your spouse to live in your shared home for the rest of their life, you make provisions for this to happen, but ensure that once they no longer need the property, it will pass to your children.
Have your Will drawn up without leaving your home
Having a valid Will in place ensures not only that your loved ones will be provided for following your death, it also means that you can protect your estate and reduce the risk of a dispute arising between potential beneficiaries.
If you do not want to go to a solicitor’s office to make your Will, it is perfectly possible to deal with the whole matter without leaving home. At Elm Legal Services we offer a home visit service (where restrictions allow) or a web-cam Wills service.
Putting a Will in place will give you the reassurance of knowing that you have done all you can to protect and provide for your loved ones.
At Elm Legal Services, our Wills and Trusts experts can discuss your situation with you and draw up a tailor-made Will on your behalf. We can answer any questions you may have and ensure that your Will directs your assets exactly where you want them to go.