Andrew Jack of AMD Solicitors considers the dangers of homemade wills
Making a Will is the only way of ensuring that your estate and assets are distributed according to your wishes. If you die without a Will, your estate will pass in accordance with the rules of intestacy. This could mean that your estate will pass to someone who you may not want to benefit.
Reasons clients have mentioned for not making a Will include not having enough time, not wanting to talk about death and the cost involved. Concerns over fees may lead someone to prepare a home made Will.
Although a Will does not need to be prepared by a Solicitor, there are inherent dangers in preparing one yourself.
A recent example of this involves a husband and wife who had each prepared identical homemade Wills. As far as they were concerned, from the time they had signed their Wills to the date they instructed us to make new ones, they had valid Wills. It was quickly spotted, however, that the Wills had only been witnessed by one person at the time of signing. It is a requirement that for a Will to be valid it must be signed by the testator in the presence of two independent witnesses who must also sign the Will at the same time.
Due to this small but vital mistake, these Wills were invalid from the day they were signed.
2. Changes in circumstance
If you decide to get married and already have an existing Will, that Will will automatically be revoked on your marriage, unless it was drafted in expectation of the marriage. A professional would advise you of this but a lay person might not be aware of the affect of marriage if they are making a homemade Will. Equally, divorce effects inheritance under a Will.
Another situation we have come across is an undated Will. Although a date is not required for a Will to be valid, it is your last Will that must be proved on your death. If the Will does not have a date then it is difficult to prove that it is the last Will and often sworn statements are required from witnesses to provide evidence as to when they were signed.
4. Inappropriate Clauses
If you try and take clauses from a previous will or use clauses from someone else’s Will without fully understanding what those clauses mean and what their effect will be, you can end up with a Will that does not achieve what you wanted, with the result that some or all of your estate may go to someone you had not intended to benefit.
For advice on wills, inheritance tax, lasting powers of attorney administration of estates and all other private client issues please contact Andrew Jack or another member of our team on 0117 962 1205, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call into one of our four Bristol offices.
100 Henleaze Road, Henleaze BS9 4JZ 15 The Mall, Clifton BS8 4DS
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