The Danger of DIY Wills
DIY wills are on the rise, but they are potentially very dangerous for you and your estate.
A will is often deemed the most important document you will ever write. It is an essential way of ensuring your savings and assets are distributed and divided how you see fit when you pass away. If you die without a will, or with an invalid will, your wishes may not be followed.
Despite this, many people still fail to prepare a proper will. This is often down to the costs when seeking professional help from a solicitor.
This has seen DIY will packs come into fashion in the past couple of years, offering a cheaper alternative to seeking professional help from a qualified will writer. Some of these packs start from as little as £6.99 and can be completed within minutes.
However, these DIY will packs are often too good to be true. Anyone who writes a will in this way is taking a huge risk with their assets, with their final wishes potentially being disregarded due to issues and mistakes within the DIY will.
Off-the-shelf wills may seem attractive to anyone who wishes to save a couple of hundred pounds, but if the will has errors, or it has not followed the strict witnessing rules, it could be deemed invalid. This could potentially cost thousands of pounds, losing any initial saving.
The rise of the DIY Will
The rise of the DIY will has been felt over the past couple of years. With technology now smarter and more embedded in our lives than ever, people are purchasing wills from online sellers such as Amazon and Nine Minute Will.
The effect has been felt within the High Court, however, with inheritance disputes increasing by an incredible 62% over the past two years. Last year there were 368 probate disputes, compared to 227 in 2016.
Figures show that poorly drafted and ineffective DIY wills are also to blame for prolonged probate ordeals outside of court, for up to 38,000 families every year.
This is particularly worrying as, very often, up to 10% of the estate value is eaten up by costly legal fees as a result of an ineffective will. With the average estate in the UK equalling £160,000, this could equate to as much as £16,000-worth of probate fees. The saving of DIY wills does not sound so lucrative now.
The problems with DIY Wills
So what exactly are the reasons for these inheritance disputes? Why are DIY wills so troublesome?
All of the DIY will services differ in terms of what they offer, but there are some glaringly obvious reasons they can have their pitfalls.
In the £6.99 pack from Amazon, for example, there is no mention of the need to appoint a “substitute beneficiary”. This means if the person you want to inherit your estate dies before you, the will becomes invalid.
In addition to this, there is no mention of inheritance tax implications, or any reference to what age you would like your children to receive any money or assets.
Many DIY wills can be deemed invalid if beneficiaries’ names are not spelled out correctly, in full, with a full, up-to-date address.
One of the biggest issues with DIY wills, however, is in relation to the witnesses. In order for a will to be valid it must have been signed in the presence of two people who:
- Are UK citizens, 18 and over
- Are not named as beneficiaries in the will, or are married to someone who is
These two witnesses must be physically present at the time of signing the will, otherwise it will be deemed void. With DIY wills, you are often capable of signing the will in the comfort of your own home, without a proper witness.
This raises another issue, where someone who wishes to contest the will may suspect the will was filled out and signed by someone without mental capacity, or under duress.
In addition, with the DIY will service there are often hidden costs. For many services, there are annual storage fees and retrievals fees, which could potentially run in the hundreds of pounds. This would make using a solicitor cheaper in the long-run.
How Percy Hughes & Roberts can help
We are seeing more and more websites offering services to write your own will. However, it is very easy to make a mistake if you do not seek professional advice. Sadly, such mistakes often mean that your family and friends face potential long and expensive legal battles once you have passed away.
Our Wills, Trusts & Probate department, which is headed by partner Alison Beech, offers a thorough, professional and personal service. Our specialised team will help you to plan for the future, to ensure that there are no shocks for your loved ones.
Alison Beech commented:
It is the most important document in your life, so it is worth doing properly.
Wills can be notoriously contentious, and leaving grey areas can lead to a higher risk of your estate facing challenges further down the line.
The implications of saving a couple of hundred pound to begin with can have serious, lasting affects on your family and any other beneficiaries.
Our wills, trusts and probate solicitors have a wealth of experience in helping people through what can be a difficult time, dealing with estate and trust property and complex estates.
Contact Percy Hughes & Roberts
To speak to a wills and probate solicitor for advice, contact Percy Hughes & Roberts for a no-obligation phone consultation today. We provide ourselves on offering expert advice that's easy to understand, and we will be with you through every step of the legal process.