The Distressing Cost of a DIY Will Kit & How to Avoid it!
You may not know it but the instant gratification offered by a DIY Will Kit can come back to bite you. And bite you very hard.
A tiny outlay of £11.89 to Amazon or WHSmiths and a few minutes filling out the ‘form’ is very tempting. I’m sure it seems like the obvious choice. Why would anyone pay a professional hundreds of pounds when they can do it themselves at a fraction of the cost and at their own convenience?
The simple answer is that, choosing a DIY Will Kit could end up costing your loved ones untold stress and thousands of pounds.
The hidden costs of a DIY Will Kit can be £1,000s.
So many mistakes, errors and omissions are made in homemade and DIY wills. These often only come to light when an individual has passed away. DIY Will are frequently invalid!
Without a valid Will the Rules of Intestacy come into effect, meaning your estate may not be distributed as you would have liked.
Then there’s the cost in trying to rectify such errors. This can be thousands of pounds in legal fees. Unfortunately, the burden of sorting out this mess lies with your personal representatives as you won’t be here to deal with it, causing unnecessary stress to your loved ones and delaying the distribution of your estate.
With Will writing you get what you pay for!
Here are a few examples of some of the most common mistakes people make when they use DIY will kits. And, the consequences for those left behind:
Will is not dated correctly:
George passed away leaving a Will that he had written himself using a DIY Will kit. Unfortunately he did not date the Will and this only came to light when he passed away.
The solicitors dealing with George’s estate had to contact the witnesses to see if they could shed any light on when George signed his Will. It took some time to track down the witnesses as they had moved abroad. Unfortunately, they could not remember the exact date George signed his Will, as it was many years ago. They were only able to provide an approximate year and signed an affidavit to this effect. The solicitors proceeded with the Grant application with the signed affidavit. However, The Probate Registry rejected it as it was not sufficient. They required a specific date or range of dates, and so the solicitors had to contact the witnesses again for a more accurate date.
George also had foreign assets and he had made a foreign Will to deal with them, which complicated matters further. Both his Wills had different beneficiaries. If George signed his UK Will after he signed his foreign Will, it would revoke the foreign Will, as the revocation clause in his UK Will revoked all former Wills. It transpired that George did, in fact, sign his UK Will after he signed his foreign Will. Unfortunately, the beneficiaries of George’s foreign Will lost out. The solicitors had to distribute George’s foreign assets as per his UK will and not as he had intended.
Not witnessed correctly:
Edward made a Will using a DIY Will kit leaving his entire estate to his partner, Brenda. Edward had asked two of his neighbours to sign his Will, as witnesses. They had both signed in different colour pens.
When Edward passed away and his Executors submitted the Probate application to the courts, this was queried by the Probate Registry. It transpired that Edward did not sign his Will in the presence of the two witnesses. Edward had signed it, he then took it to one of his neighbours to sign and then the other. Neither witness was present when Edward signed his Will and therefore it was invalid.
Edward therefore died intestate and the Rules of Intestacy applied. Brenda was not a beneficiary under the Rules of Intestacy because she was not Edward’s wife. The Rules of Intestacy do not recognise unmarried couples and therefore, Edward’s estranged son, Stuart, was now the sole beneficiary.
However, Brenda made a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This delayed the distribution of the estate by months and cost the estate thousands, eating away at the inheritance due to Stuart.
Estate is not fully distributed:
Martin typed up his own Will at home and distributed his estate to numerous people in percentages. The Will had the correct revocation and attestation clauses. Martin had even followed the correct procedure to sign, witness and date his Will.
It was only on Martin’s death that the executors realised the percentages did not add up to 100%. Martin had only distributed 98% of his estate resulting in a partial intestacy. Meaning that the 2% he hadn’t distributed will now pass as per the Rules of Intestacy.
Again, the burden of tracking down Martin’s living relatives now entitled to inherit fell on the executors. The executors had very little knowledge of Martin’s family, as they were only his neighbours. They knew that Martin lived alone. He was single and did not have any children. The executors were not aware of any other family members.
Due to the lack of knowledge about Martin’s family the executors have no choice but to instruct a genealogist to establish Martin’s family tree. The genealogists had to track down the living beneficiaries now entitled to that 2%. This not only delayed the distribution of the estate, it depleted the estate funds. Something like this can take months and is very costly.
Amendments and scribbles made throughout making it invalid:
When making a Will using a DIY Will Kit, it is common for people to make amendments and scribbles throughout, causing the Will to be invalid.
Click here to read an interesting article in The Guardian about this.
Some other very common mistakes are:
- Attestation clause is not correct or sufficient (usually when an individual has drafted the Will themselves from scratch).
- The Will has not been signed by the testator properly.
- The Will has no revocation clause.
There are other implications of using a DIY Will kit which you should take into consideration. Such as:
- Your estate could be liable to Inheritance Tax when it could have been reduced or completely mitigated, if you had planned for it – click here to read about how Bruce Forsyth legitimately passed his £17million estate tax free.
- You may end up paying unnecessary Care Home fees and thereby reducing your estate value when, yet again, you could have taken steps to prevent this.
- Your children could lose out on their Inheritance by a remarriage, known as Second Marriage Syndrome, should the survivor of married couple remarry.
- If you have minor children and you fail to appoint Guardians, they could end up in care of the local authority.
- Claims under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 can be made against your estate. Consequently, this will delay the estate administration and run up significant legal fees.
Our advice is, for your own peace of mind, to stay well clear of DIY Will kits. Use a professional firm, like us to write your Will. We will work with you to ensure that your estates passes to the ones you want it to. This subsequently means the least amount of stress for your loved ones. And when the time comes, your estate will be dealt with in a timely and cost effective manner.
And, if you still haven’t made a Will then read this.
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