In our first article of the year, we looked at the reasons why you should make a Will (if you have not already of course) and what a Will enables you to do i.e. appoint guardians and specify how your estate should be distributed and who to. As we discussed in the article, you have the option of seeing a professional to write your Will, who will carry out a full fact find with you and then provide you with expert advice to cater to your personal circumstances. Alternatively, you can write the Will yourself.
With Covid-19 restrictions and the need to socially distance, you may think writing your own Will is the best and safest way to record your wishes. However, DIY Wills are not always the best approach and can come with risks.
Here are some of the issues that could arise.
- You may own a business and have an IHT issue – do you know any reliefs that could be available to you?
- You may have a large estate and not know how to be IHT effective i.e. using trusts
- You may exclude children from your Will and not know the true consequence of this decision
- Your Will may not be legally valid – was it witnessed and signed correctly?
- You have minor children but no guardian has been appointed to look after your children in the event of your death
- No one has been appointed to distribute your estate after your death
- You may have a child with a gambling problem but gift the money to them directly knowing they could use it for their gambling addition without being aware of a trust which you could put the money into that will be managed by someone else (trustees)
- You may gift something in your Will which is unclear and could lead to conflict
- You may ask your spouse to witness your Will when they are due to inherit under the Will causing any gift to them to fail
For more information on the above, please see a previous article of ours on DIY Wills, here.
It’s all well and good us telling you about the pitfalls of DIY Wills, but let’s take a look at a very recent High Court case where the issue of a DIY Will made headlines when Terri Tibbles was awarded her father’s entire estate at a value of £300,000.
Terri Tibbles was close to her father William who was a car dealer and she expected to inherit his estate when he died in 2018 at the age of 75. William had made a Will in March 2017 and alongside his Will was a letter of wishes in which he stated Terri’s twin sister Kelly, along with his other daughters Cindy and Susan “had been a disappointment to him.” The same letter of wishes also referred to his son Paul being financially secure.
Three days after William’s death a second Will was found which was written on a piece of paper that appeared to be torn from a notebook and this was handed to his solicitors. This Will left his entire estate to be shared equally between Kelly, Susan, Cindy and Paul. Terri had been completely disinherited. Paul was named as the executor of the Will and when questioned, Paul maintained the Will was validly signed and witnessed the day before his father went into hospital. He also stated the other sisters had looked after his father during his final months and that his father was determined to amend his existing Will.
The Will was challenged by Terri on the grounds that “it would have been totally uncharacteristic for him to prepare a DIY Will, considering his long history of previous dealings with solicitors. The document could just as well have been written and signed by anybody.”
Judge Marsh ruled in Terri’s favour on the grounds that following expert evidence, the handwriting was not that of William nor was the Will signed by him. There was also no evidence of it being written at William’s dictation nor any explanation as to why Terri was being disinherited.
The ruling was made last year but the Will has only now been admitted to probate.
In any event, there is no substitute for professional advice. Only by seeking a professional to write your Will can you be sure your last wishes will be recorded correctly, giving both you and your loved one’s peace of mind that your affairs are in order. To write your Will, or to update and existing Will, find a member in your area today by clicking here. Simply enter a name, service, or even a postcode and search radius and our map will show you who is nearby.