News

Black Country expert warns against DIY wills

19th November 2021

Black Country expert warns against DIY wills

There has been a huge upsurge in the number of people writing wills at home since the start of the pandemic, with one report suggesting a 267% uplift.

Contentious trusts and estates expert Georgia Stott, of Black Country based Higgs LLP, said it was encouraging that more people were taking care of their affairs – but warned that writing a will without expert advice can be problematic.

She said that many people underestimate the complexity of their affairs, causing lengthy and upsetting problems for family members further down the road.

Research by Funeral Solution Expert, a research and consultancy firm, found that 65% of people who considered their affairs to be ‘simple’ subsequently, after questioning, found their affairs to be ‘complex’.

Georgia said: “It is good that many more people are forward planning and getting their estates in order by writing wills.

“However, I have deep concerns about the number of people using cheap online do-it-yourself platforms rather than engaging a solicitor. I worry that in the future there will be a surge in contested probate as a result.

“One of the biggest problems is people underestimating the complexity of their affairs, as shown by latest research

“Small mistakes can lead to big problems. Typically, the online will providers will dissolve themselves of any liability for mistakes given they haven’t provided any advice, offering no protection or comeback.”

Georgia said there were many pitfalls a person can encounter when writing a will themselves which could ultimately render the document invalid.

These include failing to sign the will, failing to execute it in relation to legal mandates, storing the will incorrectly, choosing a witness who is also a beneficiary and failing to update the will as circumstances change.

But Georgia said it is not just a case of whether or not the will is valid that should be considered, but also the benefits that are being overlooked by not engaging a professional.

“If someone decides to write their own will they could be missing out on the opportunity of professional advice on the most tax efficient and practical way to structure their affairs.

“They might not also be aware of the potential claims against their estate that could arise as a result of them making their will in the way they have.

“It’s not just about wills being strictly ‘valid’. It’s about the person making the will realising that there could be other reasons why their wishes, as set out in their online will, may not be able to be followed and, instead, may result in costly and time-consuming litigation for those left behind. Substandard writing can often lead to misinterpretation or leave the door open for challenges.

“Though online wills will undoubtedly be cheaper initially, that may not be the case in the long-run.”

Georgia urged anyone considering making a will to do so via a regulated and experienced solicitor.

She said: “This is the best way of avoiding mistakes, making sure your affairs are organised in the best way for your personal circumstances and reducing the chances of your estate being affected by costly litigation.”

The above said, sometimes people feel they have no alternative but to write their own will, as was especially the case during the pandemic when access to solicitors may have felt more challenging. We are expecting an increase in the number of executors who find themselves distributing estates based on homemade wills, and increasingly contentious estates as a result. We are also expecting an increase in the number of disappointed beneficiaries, as wills that haven’t necessarily been prepared properly are resulting in intestate estates when the individual thought they had their affairs in order. The good news is that help and support is available for executors, beneficiaries of an estate, and those who are disappointed that they are not going to inherit what they anticipated. We can advise people as to their options, and their legal rights and responsibilities, to assist in resolving any such disputes.

As well as assisting in the will writing process, Higgs LLP can also help with expert legal advice when there is disagreement, both for executors who are trying to administer an estate, and for individuals who believe they may have a claim against an estate.

Visit www.higgsllp.co.uk or contact Georgia on 01384 327117 or georgia.stott@higgsllp.co.uk

 

Other news

Contact us

3 Waterfront Business Park
Brierley Hill
West Midlands, DY5 1LX

Email: law@higgsllp.co.uk
Call Us: 0345 111 5050

Newsletter

Keep up to date with all the latest here.

Higgs LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority number 819589.