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.
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.
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 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.