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DIY Wills and their Dangers
The rise in popularity of DIY Wills is due in large part to the belief that they are ideally suited to avoiding significant legal fees for what appears or be a relatively simple job: the creation of a Will. While there is no doubt that the idea of a DIY or ‘homemade’ Will is attractive – a readily available commercial document that adequately narrates your intentions for your estate when you pass away – the reality is often quite different.
At Szabo & Associates, Solicitors we regularly work with clients to draft clear, comprehensive documents that crystallise their intentions for their estate when they pass away. If you are considering making a Will, there are some key considerations you should keep in mind when thinking on making use of a DIY Will over instructing a specialist solicitor.
What is meant by the term ‘DIY Will’?
Generally, a DIY Will is a Will that is a template document with a number of blank spaces for you to fill in to reflect your particular circumstances. An increasing number of businesses create and sell these documents, both in retail stores and online, offering them as a good alternative to instructing a solicitor. DIY Wills also tend to be offered for what is a relatively low price, especially when compared with what many believe the cost of seeking professional advice to be.
What is the problem of DIY Wills?
Most people believe that their making use of DIY Wills is far preferable to involving a lawyer: it will encapsulate all of their intentions in a readily accessible form without the need to get involved in long, drawn out and expensive meetings on drafting. An unfortunate fact for many people is that DIY Wills that are commercially available are incapable of fully encapsulating their intentions for their property when they pass away.
A Will is by nature a deeply personal document: it reflects what you alone intend to be done with your estate when you die. The law generally entitles you to complete freedom in terms of how you word your Will – it is impossible for any business to produce a product that can readily account for all of your intentions, let alone all of those of a sizeable population in a single document. While it is often suggested that such documents can simply be amended, this would need to be done taking into account the rest of its terms – isolated amendments may be interfered with by earlier or later wording, thereby negating any benefit to making an amendment in the first place.
There are also other significant concerns that exist in respect of DIY Wills:
Most DIY Wills are initially created and signed without the involvement of a lawyer. The resulting risk is that the document itself may not be completed properly, in-keeping with legal requirements. Furthermore, DIY Wills tend to be drafted with fairly ‘commercial’ language which may not be reflecting of legal realities. As a result, this creates the risk of ambiguity and increases the risk of disputes developing later between family members on what the terms of your Will meant.
DIY Wills do not in and of themselves convey the consequences of what happens in the event that they are found not to be valid. Notwithstanding the fact that they tend to be drafted in non-legal language, there is a risk that they may not be drafted in a way that observes local laws i.e. it may not be a formally valid document and your estate could be thrown into intestacy, requiring a court to become involved and organise your estate according to a rigid legal process. This could also result in your family failing to inherit as you would have intended, and may cause relationships to be damaged in the long-term among your surviving relatives.
The use of DIY Wills increases the risk of interference with your wishes. In law it is a fundamental requirement that the terms of your Will reflect your intentions alone. This is part of the reason why a lawyer can be incredibly useful in drafting a Will: they will meet with you and make sure that there is no evidence of your Will being drafted to meet someone else's expectation. Furthermore, a specialist lawyer will be best placed to ensure that your Will takes full account of your intentions for your property. This safeguard is removed through the use of DIY Wills – there is no one to review its terms in advance of its being signed, preventing an unethical person from taking advantage of you in a weakened state and using unsuspecting people to witness your signature with a view to formalising a Will that may be contrary to your wishes.
It is not uncommon for people to overestimate the utility of DIY Wills. The reality is that they cannot fully account for everything that you would intend to be done with your estate when you pass away. This is only capable following detailed conversations with a specialist private client lawyer who can fully record your wishes, and has sufficient skill in drafting to accurately replicate these in a formally valid Will. Another reality is that, the cost of instructing a legal advisor to draft a Will is often less than most expect, and will almost certainly be less than that needed to litigate over a document that is formally invalid or does not accurately reflect your intentions. If you need assistance in drafting a Will, contact the team at Szabo & Associates, Solicitors today.
Contact Szabo & Associates, Solicitors
Szabo & Associates, Solicitors is a law firm providing specialist advice and guidance to clients on all aspects of private client work. Our expert team is often sought out for its detailed knowledge of the law and practice surrounding Wills, and are among the most experienced in the field. We take pride in working with our clients to construct a Will that is fully compliant with legal rules, with minimal time and expense involved. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today.