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Gambling with your family’s future: The perils of a DIY Will

With Wills available online from as little £6.99 (thanks to Amazon) you may feel like you are getting a great deal, however, the reality is that these types of Wills could potentially cost your family a fortune.

Low-cost DIY Wills are often poorly drafted, prepared by Will writers that are not trained solicitors and do not come with the expert legal advice needed to minimise any inheritance tax and financial issues.

This could mean that on your death your final wishes are disregarded, or your loved ones could face expensive court battles over any disputes due to discrepancies in the wording.

We caught up with Wills & Inheritance disputes expert lawyer, Theo Hoppen from our Harrogate office to share his views on the perils of low-cost, DIY Wills.

A Will does not have to be prepared by a solicitor to be valid.  However, in my experience, it is much more likely to be valid if it has been.

I am seeing more and more clients coming into the office facing issues with Wills that their loved ones have been prepared using online Will writing services or a DIY Wills that people have written themselves.

I have cases in which a Will is invalid because it does not meet certain procedural requirements, for example, the deceased’s signature is not witnessed by two independent people or because the wording is unclear and ambiguous.

If the Will is not drafted properly, they can contain contradictory clauses or do not clearly express the deceased’s intentions.  This can quickly lead to disputes as the beneficiaries interpret the Will differently and often in a way favourable to themselves.

In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to court proceedings where the court will be asked to decide what the Will means.  If a clause in a Will is too vague and uncertain, the court can rule that part of the Will is invalid and then the intestacy rules would dictate how that part of the estate passes.

It is, therefore, crucial to prepare a Will properly with a solicitor to ensure that your loved ones do not become embroiled in legal proceedings after you die.

Theo Hoppen was a Senior Solicitor in our Harrogate office. He advises on all aspects of family law with a specialism in representing clients in relation to claims against estates under the Inheritance Act.

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