Should homemade wills be made?
A Will is possibly the most important document you will ever have to sign. Some homemade things in life are the best – take for example homemade jam and scones – but this isn’t always the case, especially not where homemade Wills are concerned. Homemade Wills are a much more risky and less pleasant proposition than wholesome homemade food. Saving a hundred or a couple of hundred pounds (the equivalent of perhaps 4 or 5 months subscription to Sky Sports) may seem like a good idea. However, these short term savings can be a false economy. We regularly see the problems that a homemade will (or one prepared by a cut price, unqualified will writer) can cause, often leading to financial and emotional disasters.
The dangers of homemade wills
We recently saw a client whose spouse had sadly died. They had made wills together, without legal advice, many years ago, and then put them safely away in a drawer without ever reviewing them. Due to the way their wills had been drafted they had both left everything to their child and then to each other. This is not what they had intended. They had in mind benefiting the child only in the event of the survivor’s death or in case they both died together, perhaps in an accident. In fact they drew up their wills in something of a rush shortly before their first long-haul flight together, so this type of scenario was obviously in their minds. Clearly, neither of them would have wanted to find themselves struggling financially after the death of their partner.
The deceased spouse had held many assets solely. According to the terms of the homemade will these were now to go to their child rather than the survivor. Fortunately, they did not hold individual shares in their home as tenants in common as many couples do. This would have been even more catastrophic for the surviving spouse. Likewise, depending on the size of the estate, the homemade will could have exposed the estate to an Inheritance Tax liability.
If the surviving spouse in this type of scenario has a good relationship with the child then this problem can be resolved through a Deed of Variation whereby the assets of the deceased spouse are directed to the surviving spouse. Regrettably not all family relationships are harmonious and even close relatives can seek to take advantage of errors when they occur. When this happens it can be a disaster for the party who loses out, with acrimony and possibly litigation exacerbating their grief.
But it’s not only homemade wills that present a danger.
Beware of unqualified will writers
Will writers who are not legally qualified are notorious for doing an incomplete, or worse, an incompetent job.
One common error is preparing a will that incorporates a life-interest trust in a property in the hope of protecting one half of the value of the property from the impact of nursing home fees or to provide for children from a previous relationship without actually severing the joint tenancy in the property. This happens a lot and as a result the life interest Trust cannot take effect. The financial effects of this error can be devastating.
Leave it to the specialists
The lesson is that some things in life are best left to the professionals. This includes will writing. With so much at stake it is advisable not to try and cut costs by doing your will yourself or relying on an unqualified, cut-price will writer who may do only half a job, or worse.
Make an appointment with a lawyer at Slee Blackwell Solicitors LLP – for your own peace of mind, and the protection of your nearest and dearest.