Why DIY Wills Might Not Be The Best Approach

Wills are important documents for someone to ensure their family is protected and provided for or if they are planning to leave their assets to an organization or another person.

Many people are under the impression that putting together a DIY Will is an easy way to get it done.

Not Setting Up A Will

Let’s face it, if you do not set up a will stating your intent for your assets, savings, home, etc, upon your death things can go really wrong.  It could lead to disagreements and a long battle after your death.  Your family could go through a great deal of added stress during this very difficult time as well.  If you are not married but intend to take care of an unmarried partner, friends or other relations, without a will they might not get the help you hoped to provide them.

Statistics have shown that two-thirds of adults in the UK do not have wills and the reason is usually due to the cost of making up a will.  Lawyers will charge anywhere from £100 and £300 for a very simple will and can go up as much as £600 for a more complex will.

DIY Wills

Due to the costs of preparing a will, many people are opting for DIY wills which can be purchased at shops or downloaded from the internet.  DIY will usually only cost £20 which makes them very attractive alternatives.

The problem with these wills, if you do not seek legal advice, things can go wrong very quickly.  Your DIY Will could be challenged for a number of reasons resulting in a court battle, added taxes, and legal bills that will be incurred.

According to statistics from the CLS, approximately 38,000 families have gone through difficult, prolonged disputes created by DIY wills.  If you are not aware, 10% of the value of your estate can lead to additional fees caused by poorly drafted, ineffective wills.  The average estate in the UK is £160,000 and an additional £16,000 will be taken for unnecessary fees.

Simple Mirror Wills Are Not So Simple

Various lawyers have pointed out that in some DIY wills without seeking legal counsel might be alright in some situations such as a couple leaving each other everything.  But there can be complications if the will was not witnessed properly, clerical errors exist, or the document was not signed.  Problems can also arise when there have been changes made but the will has not reflected these changes.

Many people don’t realize that a will can automatically be revoked if you get married afterward unless stipulations were in place for marrying this particular person before hand.  Also, many people do not realize that divorce does not revoke a will.  Your divorced spouse might be seen as not existing,  leading to unintentional problems.

Wills Dealing With Complex Situations

There are cases in which a DIY will has been setup but the situation is more complex than they bargained on.  If you were to make up a will in the UK to take care of your assets then turn around and set up another will in a different country, the second will revokes the first one unless it has been stated otherwise in the second will.

This is where it’s a good idea to have legal advice so lawyers can agree to a mutual outcome.  If someone has assets in another country, they need to understand how estates are dealt with in that  country.  France, for example, has a “forced heirship” which requires a fixed percentage of assets must pass to the spouse, children, or other relatives.

Keep in mind, foreign law can override what is contained in your English will, if  you have foreign connections. This means that assets abroad may not be distributed as you might have intended.  Getting legal advice, before hand, could avoid many issues.

Inheritance Taxes

This is an area that can be very complicated for the average person putting together a DIY will.  Known as the Nil Rate Band, each individual has an allowance of £325,000.  If all your assets and property goes to one person, they will inherit your unused allowance as well.  As of AprilS 2017, the government has introduced an additional Nil Rate Band which addresses the person’s home.  As of 2021, this might be worth an extra £175,000 per person or £1 million for couples, if the family  home is also included.  Again, getting legal advice, beforehand, is the best way to address inheritance taxes.

Digital Assets

Digital assets can include PayPal, eBay accounts, or Bitcoins along with intellectual properties such as blogs.  This can be very complicated and beyond your legal understanding.  All of these fall under your estate and will pass into your will.  Assets used under a license, such as an iTunes account, are not considered assets.  Some accounts, such as an Apple account, will be deleted once they are informed that you have died.

Other Challenges Down The Road

Besides contesting challenges on technical grounds, if an unhappy relative thinks you should have provided for them, they could file a claim under the Inheritance Act of 1975 which is a provision for family members and dependents.  Many of the claims cannot be avoided but if you have an experienced lawyer he or she will be able to provide you with advice to deter these issues.

One avenue you might want to consider would be leaving a confidential letter regarding your wishes to the executor of your estate.  This letter should state your reasons why a particular family member has been left out of the will.  Although it might not be binding, it will provide the court with your wishes when they are addressing such claims.

Filing a Clinical Negligence claim

Health professionals work in tough atmospheres, and they work to the best of their abilities to provide proper care. But sometimes the care you receive may be below expected standards, and such negligence can make an already unhealthy condition worse.

If you are thinking about filing a Clinical Negligence claim and are confused about the process, uncertain of where to start, or unsure of whether to go through with the claim at all, you’ll find this article useful. We will address the 5 main questions to consider prior to beginning a Clinical Negligence case.
If necessary, are you ready to go to Court?

Many Clinical Negligence claims get settled out of court. Studies show that less than 5% of cases end up going to a full Court trial.

Whether you believe your case will go to Court or be settled before the trial begins, it’s worthwhile to prepare yourself for the trial mentally. Govern your behavior and believe everything that you say about your case. How the judge perceives you is of paramount importance.

Question whether you are ready for a Court appearance. Would you be able to provide witness evidence after swearing an oath? Can you endure standing in front of a judge and answer all his questions easily? If the answers to those questions are “no”, then you shouldn’t begin the claim yet. You should, however, inform your solicitor about this and adhere to their recommendations.
Are you prepared to address sensitive medical treatment questions?

Similar to the above, this query refers to your personal levels of comfort and what you are and aren’t able to do.

To determine what the Defendant will ask you, your solicitor will play devil’s advocate. As such, expect to be asked tough questions, ones that may make you feel like the solicitor has turned against you. This is not the case – the solicitor does this to prepare you for the Defendant’s arguments so you can react and respond accordingly. This way, no question will catch you off-guard.

For instance, if your solicitor believes the Defendant will state that you should have addressed your treatment concerns to your doctor earlier, you can expect to be asked:

  • “why did you wait half a year to address your issues?”
  • “Why did you keep letting Dr. X treat you if you were mistrustful of him?”
  • “Why didn’t you obtain a second opinion?”
  • “Why didn’t you act prior to X, Y, or Z occurring?”

Be making you prepared for such harsh questions, they can easily dismantle the Defendant’s argument.

Have you totally recovered?
It is prudent to be completely recovered prior to starting a claim since it will make your injury simpler to assess (i.e. put a financial figure on your delayed recovery/injury, etc.). Be mindful that that bringing a claim can be quite stressful, and if you think such stress will be detrimental to your health, it is recommended that you wait until your health improves to the point where you can get back on the case.

You have a few years to bring a claim; the deadline starts from the time you acknowledge negligence. This is known as Date of Knowledge, and it allows you to get healthier prior to beginning a claim.

Even though it’s not recommended to wait until the eleventh hour of the three-year deadline, it is smart to ensure you have completely recovered, or recover as much as you can, prior to bringing a claim. If you intend to use a solicitor to bring your claim for Clinical Negligence, then it would be wise to speak with them at least half a year prior to the end of the deadline.

Are you bringing a claim on time?
To reintegrate what was mentioned earlier, ensure you bring a claim before the deadline ends. You have a three-year window that starts when you realize you had endured negligence. The time will be barred if you attempt to bring a claim after the deadline expires. In rare situations, a Court might permit the case past the three-year window.

What are my choices for funding?
Many claims for Clinical Negligence can be taken on by a solicitor with an agreement called “No Win No Fee”. This arrangement allows the solicitor to receive up to 25% of your compensation to cover legal fees. This percentage can be negotiated if your solicitor is open to adjusting it.

With a “No Win No Fee Agreement”, you don’t pay any legal fees if you lose in court. However, you may still be responsible for disbursements that were paid by your solicitor on your behalf. Disbursements consist of fees to pay for the medical expert’s contribution, your medical records, Court costs, and the like. Your solicitor may also acquire insurance to keep you protected from having to pay such disbursements, should your case be unsuccessful.

There are additional funding options available; your claim could be funded with pre-existing legal coverage on your car insurance or house & contents insurance. It is worth reviewing your insurance policies to determine if you have this type of coverage. There are advantages to paying for claims using pre-existing insurance policies since several insurance providers will let you keep every cent of your compensation. However, you might not have the benefit of selecting your own solicitor and be subjected to the one selected by the insurance company. It isn’t very likely that you’ll meet them in person and instead communicate with them online or by phone.

In Closing
Bringing a Clinical Negligence claim is a lengthy, tedious process and may test your patience. However, if you consider the process, advise a solicitor, and listen to their recommendations, the process will be much easier.

Legislation To Protect Separating UK Unmarried Couples Overdue

According to the Office Of National Statistics, unmarried couples and families living together are the fastest growing cohabitants in the United Kingdom. As of 2016, there are approximately 3.3 million cohabiting families and the number has doubled since the statistics taken 1996 at 1.5 million.

Legislation for the protection of  unmarried couples and families is well overdue.  Lawyers have been arguing this issue for well over 10 years.  This includes the rights and responsibilities of unmarried couples upon separation and should be addressed as soon as possible.

A recent survey by the Family Lawyers Organisation of its members revealed that 88% of cohabiting couples believe they have legal protection.  It has also shown that 98% mistakenly believed they have the same rights as married couples.

Due to the statistics from surveys, it is believed that legislation for unmarried couples has not provided proper legal protection.  Back in 2007, the Law Commission recommended a plan that would be a contribution-based financial award for separating couples who had a child together and lived together for a certain period of time.  Couples in the plan also had the option to back out if they chose to.

In 2011, the government announced they would not move forward with these proposals.  Even though the commission called on the next government to move forward and not delay, there was a lack of interest or political will.  In light of more pressing issues of national interest, there have been no changes.

Nigel Shepherd, chair of Resolution and head of family law at Mills & Reeve, told Solicitors Journal that his organisation envisions a law where unmarried couples could meet the criteria, through a committed relationship, allowing them the right to apply for certain financial orders upon separation.

This right would kick in automatically unless the couple chose to back out.  The court would be able to make the same orders as they do for divorced couples but on a limited basis.  These benefits could include payments for child care which would allow the caregiver the ability to work.

According to Julia Thackray, former head of the family team at Penningtons and programme leader at Central Law Training, believes reforms are well overdue.  She went on to point out, with the increasing number of couples living together, it is even more critical that the government gets back to the issue of cohabitation and financial protection for these people.  This issue should not be a carbon copy of divorce but should offer some level of protection and as a safety net where  otherwise real needs will not be met.

Unfortunately, there are many cases where people are extremely vulnerable, they have children, cannot work or only work part-time, and this contributes to more family financial concerns.  They have to compromise their earning abilities and limited housing options and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.  In other situations where couples do not have children but have other expenses, they are not allowed to make a property claim.  Due to other expenses, it may allow the property owner to pay off more on their mortgage so they can have an advantage later on.

In June of 2015, Lord Marks introduced the Cohabitation Rights Bill to address this huge vacuum in the law.  This bill would provide basic protections for unmarried couples and a provision for their property upon one partner’s death.  Under the bill, the court would be able to make a financial settlement order where there is a “retained benefit” or “economic disadvantage” dependent. This would allow for “qualifying contributions” be made for either financial or other reasons.

Before an order can be presented, the court must deem whether it is fair when addressing any “discretionary factors” which would include the earning capabilities of both parties and the welfare of a child.  Couples would also have protection upon a death instead of just separation and this is a very important point.

Lord Marks’ bill also has safeguards in place that would provide protection for insurable interests in lives, being intestate upon death, and rights related to their home.  It also provides for the possibility for a claim against a partner’s estate upon death.

Lord Marks will take part in an upcoming debate to support extending the legal rights of those who choose not to marry.  Those advocating reform will want to stay up on the progress being made by the bill in the House of Lords.  Without a specific date for the second reading of his bill, no one is any closer in guaranteeing cohabitation laws will meet the demands of the 21st century than the Law Commission was 10 years ago.

Unmarried couples should have the same protections and rights as those who are married.  With the growing number of people are choosing to live together vs marrying, the government must address these concerns in a timely manner.