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Lawyers warn of lasting consequences of DIY wills

Specialist private client solicitors at a national law firm are warning people about the lasting consequences of making a DIY will rather than enlisting the help of a professional adviser.

The private client team at Clarke Willmott LLP has recently launched their ‘Good Will’ campaign and are encouraging people to not only make a will, but to make a good will with expert advice.

Georgia Collier, solicitor and private capital specialist, says homemade wills can cause serious issues upon a person’s death and can result in the beneficiaries receiving reduced sums in the long run.

“It’s definitely not the best idea to download a document from the internet or pop down to your local newsagents to make a will. Professional advice is needed and will save your loved ones a lot of time, money and stress later down the line,” said Georgia.

“Homemade wills can appear attractive because of their nominal cost but upon your death your beneficiaries will need a solid document that is clear, structured and easy to adhere to rather than something that could be cause for disputes.”

“A professionally drafted will can also help to reduce inheritance tax as much as possible. Having a lawyer involved can also lessen the likelihood of disputes over capacity as this will be assessed and a medical opinion sought if necessary.”

A will is a physical document that must be signed in accordance with the requirements of the Wills Act. A professional adviser will check that it’s been validly executed so that no problems arise when passing it through the probate process.

While Clarke Willmott’s Good Will campaign comes in response to the revelation that 50% of UK adults do not have a will at all, lawyers at the firm say having a homemade will can be just as damaging, if not more so, to loved ones.

Georgia continued: “It’s one thing to have a will but if it has not been executed properly it can cause significant issues for the testator’s surviving family and, at its worst, can result in significant depletion of the estate’s assets in sorting out the disputes that may then arise.

“When drafting a will for a client we always ask questions they often haven’t even thought about to ensure that the document really does what they intend it to do. This can include thinking about protecting the inheritance in various ways, such as delaying it or putting it into a trust structure if they’re concerned about any drug, alcohol or gambling problems of the persons who are eventually to inherit. If the will is to benefit children or grandchildren, they may be young, financially naïve and potentially subject to third party influence. If they are older, they may have inheritance tax exposure of their own which they wish to mitigate, or their registered partnership may be going through a difficult time which may result in your assets being diverted.

“Then there are issues to think about around whether their partner may choose to remarry upon their death, which might result in that person’s hard-earned assets being diverted to beneficiaries they might not have considered.

“Wills become furthermore complex when the estate is large or when blended families with complicated structures are involved; inheritance disputes have seen an upward trend since 2015 so it’s certainly something to consider.

“Essentially you have a choice – save money now with a DIY will, which will potentially prove more costly after your death either through legal involvement with variations, disputes or a will that does not protect assets as well as it could; or invest in a will now and make your executors’ lives easier on your death. As well as losing you, they will also have to administer an estate anyway so taking that stress away is invaluable.

“We also store original copies of the will at no additional cost so that family members know where to find it.”