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Why writing your own Will is a bad idea

Wills

Recently I have seen a number of home-made Wills which are problematic and here I will describe some of the problems.

You know what you mean, but does anyone else?

I’ve seen a few Wills now where people describe assets, but it is not clear what they actually meant. “All my money” for example – what does that mean? Cash in house, cash in the bank, all your assets? “My watch” – I hope you only have one, because if you have more than one then we could end up in arguments.

You know what you mean, but if no one else does then it could lead to arguments. Having a solicitor who knows when imprecise terms within your Will are likely to cause confusion will help to avoid disputes.

To revoke or not to revoke, that is the question

I recently had to obtain probate to two Wills because the latter did not revoke the former. It also contained confusing references to money, like the above, which meant that we had to try to interpret the Deceased’s wishes from the two valid Wills. All of this could have been avoided if a professional Will had been drawn. It would have saved a lot of time, money and anxiety after the Deceased’s death.

On another Will, “all Wills” were revoked, but the Deceased had two Wills, one here for English assets and one abroad for their foreign assets. They have revoked their foreign Will leaving their assets abroad potentially in limbo. That could have been avoided with a professional’s help.

Cutting out the wife/husband

Some people forget that if they don’t mention their wife or husband first then they may end up disinheriting them. They seem to think that if they die first the husband/wife will inherit everything anyway and that their Will only applies if they die second. They’re wrong and it can lead to their loved ones being accidentally disinherited which can be difficult to put right where there is disagreement. This can lead to litigation, and litigation is expensive, thereby costing your family a lot of money.

Have you considered the tax consequences of what you are doing?

Most people are below the Inheritance Tax thresholds in this country, but if you are not sure whether you are or not you should seek advice before writing your Will. A professional will always look at what the tax situation is for you and your family and suggest the best way forward. I once knew of a case where a wealthy gentleman left so many legacies “tax-free” to people, that his wife who had to bear the burden of the tax bill as Residuary Beneficiary ended up in financial ruin.

If you are reading this and you are worth over £325,000 I strongly suggest getting a professional Will made. In the long run, it’ll be less costly and less hassle, particularly if that advice saves you thousands in tax.

Conclusion

There’s an old joke in the legal profession that a solicitor who acts for himself has a fool for a client. That’s because we cannot always objectively see our own problems and issues. Therefore, paying a professional to look objectively at your situation, take on board your wishes and draw them up professionally in your Will is well worthwhile.

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