As a solicitor who has specialised in drafting Wills for over 10 years I am always a little concerned when I hear people talking about preparing their own Wills without the expertise of an appropriately qualified solicitor. There are many potential pitfalls of a poorly drafted Will and I have seen the consequences of “home-made” Wills before.
Common mistakes that I have seen and heard of in such cases are as follows:
- No-one is formally appointed within the document to deal with the estate administration. A professionally drafted Will will name Executors to do this and will, where necessary, include default provisions to cover the event that a named Executor is unable or unwilling to act.
- The Will purports to make a gift of an item that cannot legally take effect (such as assets held in Trust in such a way that they cannot be gifted by the Testator or jointly owned assets which will pass to the surviving owner regardless of what the Will says).
- The Will does not effectively cover what should happen in the event of the death of a beneficiary. This is extremely common as the wording has to be precise. Often all or part of a Will can fail because of this meaning that the intestacy rules apply to inheritance of the estate rather than the Testator’s actual wishes.
- The beneficiaries may not be accurately described for example, the Will may refer just to “children” when the Testator would maybe want to include their step-children also.
- Leaving gifts to loved ones can also be deemed to be ambiguous, such as “I give my necklace to my daughter”. This being an issue if there is more than one necklace and also if there is more than one daughter!
- The Will does not deal with all of the estate, for example it might state who the house and a particular bank account is to pass to but fails to mention any other assets that may be held in the Testator’s name at the date of death. This could be because there were not any other assets at the date the Will was made but this changed later.
- The Will causes Inheritance Tax to become payable in a way which could have been avoided, or at least mitigated, if the Wills had been drafted in a different way.
When seeing a solicitor qualified to draft Wills, that solicitor will take full details of your family and financial circumstances. They do this so that they can ensure that your Will is drafted so it takes effect as you expect it to and they will flag up anything you might not have considered so that the Will is future-proofed as much as it can be.
A Will is one of the most important documents an individual will ever sign so it is worth investing in the advice of a solicitor.