The dangers of DIY wills have been publicised for years. One report in 2015 warned that poorly drafted or ineffective wills were to blame for putting as many as 38,000 families through the ordeal of prolonged probate.
Experts have called for will writers to be better regulated because of the rise in High Court disputes which they blame on cut-price legal document. Yet, these DIY wills are still for sale from as little as £6.99.
The DIY will may seem very attractive, after all, there is lots of advice with them, as much as 40 pages in some cases, but errors and omissions can make the will invalid.
Some of the DIY packs contain only basic instructions which can put the buyer at risk of leaving out crucial information. Also, there is no mention of inheritance tax, or the importance of specifying the ages at which children can inherit.
You risk leaving your family to clear up an emotional and financial mess that could end up eating away at everything you left them.
One very sad example of how it can all go wrong was highlighted last year, with the death of Neville Altoft. When Neville became seriously ill, he used an online firm to make a will. He believed that his £19.99 will would make sure that his partner of 30 years inherited his estate.
Unfortunately, his partner June has been unable to claim any of Neville’s £6,300 life insurance policy because his will carried a clause that appointed the online firm as executors. She cannot afford to pay the £1,890 legal fees that they are demanding to release the remainder of the estate following funeral payments. There would be even higher charges if the firm were allowed to apply for probate and distribute the estate.
Independent financial adviser, Patrick Connolly of Chase de Vere, advises: “If any conditions need to be added, or if there are additional complications, doing it yourself could easily prove a false economy.
This is particularly the case if you aren’t married to your partner, if you and your partner have children from previous relationships, if you are looking to split properties, if you own a business, have overseas assets or are concerned about inheritance tax.”
Katy Burgin, specialist wills and probate solicitor says: “People often think they don’t have much to leave. But a person’s estate includes bank accounts, pensions, life insurance policies, investments, property, jewellery, cars and even furniture. The value of these can quickly add up to a substantial sum. Sadly, an ineffective will can eat away as much as 10% of the estates value in additional probate fees – fees that could easily have been avoided.”
Choosing a solicitor
Firstly, ask family and friends for recommendations. Then check that the solicitor is accredited with the Law Society.
If you opt for another provider, make sure they are governed by a body such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
How we can help
For your peace of mind, our will writers are regulated and fully insured and can offer home visits if necessary. We also offer advice on inheritance tax and trusts and provide lifetime storage for your will, free of charge.
Our bespoke wills, tailored to your particular circumstances start from as little as £150.