In recent months we have seen a number of homemade Wills brought to us following the death of a family member or friend. Suffice to say, a homemade Will is often cheaper than using a firm of solicitors to make a Will but, in the long run, this can cost the surviving family members or friends a great deal in terms of the cost of rectifying any errors (if possible) or legal fees in bringing a claim against the estate as well as the unnecessary stress and heartache at what is already a difficult time.
Whilst we are more than willing to assist with the administration of an estate with a homemade Will, this article provides a brief indication of the dangers involved.
It is common practice for close family members or friends of a person making a Will (a Testator) to complete the Will on their behalf, particularly if that person is suffering from ill health. If those close family members or friends are due to substantially benefit from the Will then this could be classed as undue influence and those due to benefit may need to provide evidence to remove the suspicion.
There are stringent rules in place with regard to the signing of a Will (attestation) and one of the reasons for such stringent rules is to assist with the prevention of fraud. If the rules are not followed correctly then the Will may be invalid and could not be admitted to probate. If this is the case then it may be that a loved one is considered to have died intestate (i.e. without a Will) and their estate may pass to someone they had never intended. Whilst it may be true that the Testator has never seen their long lost relative(s) for many years, where there is no Will or no valid Will then the intestacy rules must be followed and this is exactly who the beneficiary could be. Those the Testator would want to inherit could receive nothing.
Additionally, a beneficiary of a Will cannot be a witness to the signing of a Will, otherwise they will forfeit their entitlements and would receive nothing.
In some cases a Will may be valid in that it has been correctly attested however where certain parts of the Will have not been completed then this could result in a “partial intestacy” and, again, some or all of the estate may pass to people the Testator had never intended. Where a Will has been incorrectly completed or where the wording is ambiguous then this could cause the family or friends unnecessary expense as an interpretation or construction of the Will may be required which may or may not result in the expected outcome.
Although it may be obvious from the circumstances of the Testator or it may seem obvious from the terms of the Will, if every element of the Will has not been correctly completed then the estate may pass to those who were never intended to benefit. Whilst there is the possibility that a claim may be brought against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 by those who have effectively been disinherited because of an invalid or incorrectly completed Will, there are only certain categories of people who may bring such a claim and they are not guaranteed to be successful. In addition, such a claim could be costly, time-consuming and can be stressful.
It is therefore clear that there are many pitfalls to making a homemade Will and whilst there is a slight saving to be made by making a homemade Will, there are many dangers involved that could become very costly and the intended beneficiaries of a Will may find themselves disinherited. It is therefore always recommended to seek professional advice when creating a Will to avoid such pitfalls. Our fees for making a single Will are £135 plus VAT or £220 plus VAT to make mirror Wills (usually for couples). The expense incurred at this stage could save your family and/or friends incurring unnecessary expense and stress in the future.
To discuss Wills, please contact one of our lawyers in the Wills and Probate Department:-
Jamie Dobbs- email@example.com
Jane Mawer- firstname.lastname@example.org
Faye Blair- email@example.com
Or telephone the office 01775 722261 and ask to speak with one of the team.