Why use a solicitor to draw up your will when you can buy one online or draft your own at a fraction of the cost? It is a fair question, especially during the pandemic when going out seems a daunting prospect.

However, as Amy Read private client solicitor at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, explains, ‘drafting a valid will which truly reflects your wishes can be a complicated business and there are many perils involved if you do not get professional help’.

Advantages of using a solicitor

Drawing up a will involves making decisions which will have a major impact on your loved ones after you have gone, so it is important to get it right. The consequences of a mistake can be catastrophic, financially and emotionally. The legal fees associated with correcting issues after death will be eye-wateringly high in comparison with the cost of paying a solicitor to ensure it is right from the outset. All our private client solicitors are professionally qualified, regulated and highly experienced in asking the right questions to ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected in your will. 

There are many issues a solicitor will discuss and advise you on before drafting your will, including:

  • Who you want to leave your estate to;
  • Whether you want to make specific gifts or want parts of your estate left in trust; 
  • Whether you want to leave money to a charity; 
  • Who should be your executors;
  • What arrangements you want to make for your children or pets; 
  • Inheritance tax planning advice; and
  • What claims may be bought against your estate. 

You will be amazed how many people say in “I didn’t think of that” during the initial will consultation. Part of a solicitors job is to ensure you have thought about all options before deciding. 

Solicitors are adept at ensuring all of the formalities for a will to be valid under the Wills Act 1837 are observed, such as ensuring the will is in writing, it is made voluntarily and is signed properly and witnessed. 

Solicitors are also covered by professional liability insurance and offer secure storage of your will. 

Solicitors can offer tax and property planning advice tailored to your own individual circumstances. They can offer bespoke advice on how you can minimise the tax bill when you pass away and protect your assets for your loved ones.

Inheritance disputes are now, sadly, very common. Solicitors will advise you of the claims that your estate may suffer and what you can do to protect against these. Often the very involvement of a solicitor can avoid a claim. For example, it would be tricky to suggest someone did not know and approve their will if an experienced solicitor has gone through the content with them. It would, however, be far easier to mount such an argument if the will was made at home with the assistance of a loved one who was to benefit under the will. The consequence of someone not knowing and approving the content of their will is that it is deemed invalid.  

We understand that during the pandemic, you might not want to consider venturing to a law firm office, but modern technology means you can get a valid will drawn up with our help from the comfort of your own home. We can take your instructions through video conferencing software such as Zoom, Teams, Facetime or Skype.

Perils of unregulated wills

If you do resort to a homemade or online will, things can easily become unravelled with catastrophic results. If you make even a small mistake, your will may be declared invalid. 

If this happens, your estate may be treated as if you had died intestate, that is, without a will. In these circumstances, your assets would be distributed under the strict intestacy rules which would leave your estate to your next of kin in a fixed order and may not reflect your wishes at all. 

The vast majority of the time, people make a will because the intestacy rules do not give them the desired outcome.  

Even if a home-made will is validly drawn up and executed, it may not have the clarity required to avoid disputes among your loved ones after you die. People often think that wills are simple to prepare, and this is reinforced by the availability of “fill in the gap” templates. The wording within a will is subject to careful interpretation. 

Everyday language often creates unintended consequences when legal principles are applied. I have seen many homemade wills and I can say with confidence that very few of them do what was intended. Whilst at times errors can be rectified, this can cost your estate tens of thousands of pounds. An investment in a professionally drafted will can avoid this financial loss and heartache. 

Also, remember that unregulated wills do not enjoy the benefit of liability insurance so there can be no comebacks if things do go wrong.

For more information on making a will, how inheritance disputes can be avoided, or any other private client issue, contact Amy Read at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot on 01626 202404 or by email amyread@wbw.co.uk.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.