We are currently facing a global pandemic which has made people think about their family’s long term health and financial security – even members of our own team have suddenly thought “oh yes, a will might be a good idea!”
Many people are understandably concerned and are rushing to protect their loved ones. As a result, they may not meet the legal standards required to validly create a will or it does not appropriately deal with the estate as intended due to its construction.
Before the pandemic, will disputes were on the rise with around 60% of people saying that they’d be willing to contest a will in court if they needed to. Rules on costs in probate disputes have actually made it more attractive to raise a claim. It is however a reality that contesting a will is actually rather difficult if the will practically did what was originally intended by the will-maker (Testator/Testatrix) and executed appropriately. Where a will does its job, the claimant will only be able to rely on statutory claims for dependants.
Today, we want to share some of the dangers of DIY wills.
The Will Act 1837 did not anticipate Zoom, e-signatures or Lockdown.
The rules regarding will formation and execution are not conducive with lock-down or, in fact, the digital age generally. They are nearly 200 years old. For example, a spouse or beneficiary should not be your witness (as they will not be able to inherit) and a witness cannot use a video conferencing platform to perform the duty (contrary to social media opinion!). Signatures must also be physical meaning e-signatures will not be valid.
Red-pen amendments do not work
People change, as do their priorities. This means that a will executed by person (even with the help of a solicitor) can quickly become outdated. You may get married, you may get divorced, you may have children, you may start a business – all of these things have an effect on your will. For example, a marriage will automatically invalidate a will unless it was drafted in anticipation of said marriage. Red pen changes or cross-outs will not be valid and must be legally executed by way of a codicil or a new updated will.
Your words and your intentions are two separate things.
“I gift my car to my daughter”
Simple enough, right?
What if the Testator/Testatrix owned two cars. What if one of those cars was a cheap run-around and the other was a valuable sports car. Which would be the gift to the daughter?
If the gift is too remote or uncertain, the gift may fail and fall back into your residual estate. Your words must reflect your intentions effectively, limiting the possibility for misinterpretation to be drawn.
Hollywood video wills are not valid (in the UK!)
Some people have asked if they can record their wishes by way of video (reminiscent of a number of Hollywood films where the beneficiaries crowd into the room and gasp when things don’t go to plan!).
In short, this would not be valid in the UK because of the requirements of the Wills Act described above.
‘Corona-pressure’ disputes will be more prevalent.
Coronavirus has created a fear factor like no other – this means that vulnerable people may suffer pressure by others to execute a new will or update an existing will on terms which they would not ordinarily agree to. As professional will lawyers, we have a duty to assess capacity for any Testator/Testatrix (the person making the will) so that capacity disputes are less likely to succeed.
Without a solicitor, you may save money in the short-term. However, this is potentially deferring the cost (plus much more!) to your estate upon your death and being the cause of dispute between beneficiaries.
Contact our private client team on 01392 256854 to arrange your free initial consultation or to book your “Will in the Wild” appointment – our confidential, socially-distant will execution service in our enclosed garden.