Yes, Will kits are legal, in theory you could grab a scrap piece of paper and scribble down your wishes. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean writing your own Will is a good idea.
Maybe you are you tempted by writing your own Will but unsure if kits available on the high street and online are legally binding? Technically speaking, so long as it is properly signed and witnessed by two independent adult witnesses in your presence it should be legally binding.
This article will look into reasons why going down the DIY route isn’t great practice…
Why are DIY Will kits not a good idea?
Professionally written Wills follow a structure to determine:
- What you say; and
- How you say it.
If you follow these rules, you will be adhering to the standard way of Will writing, which has been tried and tested, removing any confusion about what you mean. Yes, the language may seem unusual at first, but a lot of this wording has been agreed and accepted through the Courts and case law.
However, if you write your own Will and use the wrong wording or miss sections out (which is easy to do if you are not a trained professional) this could mean that your instructions aren’t followed or even worse, the Will is invalid.
Here are some possible scenarios:
- You could have a Will where your Executors are not properly appointed, which will add extra work (and expense) to those who need to deal with your Estate.
- If your Will does not distribute the whole of your Estate fully, you could end up with a ‘Partial Intestacy’ where some, or all, of your estate is then dealt with in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy. This may mean that unintended people could benefit.
- If it turns out that your Will is invalid then, as above, unintended members of your family could benefit from the whole of your Estate.
Cheaper is not necessarily better…
Templates and Will kits are available which include the standard sections and legal terms and usually cost around £10 – £30.
However, this is one of the instances where cheaper is not better. Whilst £10 for a Will writing kit sounds tempting, we would recommend going with someone who is experienced or qualified. There have been countless situations where a homemade Will ends up being worthless and not recognised by the law. Take the Guardian’s article for example, ‘The Dangers of DIY Wills’.
When done properly, you have the peace of mind knowing that you decide what happens to your estate. If you don’t do it properly, the state will decide who benefits from your Estate.
It isn’t easy writing a Will and making sure you have doing it properly. Take the below as an example, a user on the Money Saving Expert forum asked for advice on where they could find the best Will writing kit from. Most, if not all the replies, suggested seeking professional help:
“I’m in complete agreement with the poster above me. I used to work as a temp legal secretary and I lost count of the number of DIY wills that simply didn’t conform to the current requirements and so the estate of that person came under the dictates of the current government.”
“What he said, if its contested then chances are an outcome would be decided by the courts not your wishes , its a nasty thought in that your money left to loved ones could go into the pockets of solicitors instead , get a proper one…”
When you should seek professional help:
DIY Wills should only be prepared if you are confident and your wishes are simple e.g. you are married and you want everything left behind to go to your husband or wife and if they sadly pass away, you want to leave everything to your children?
However, you should go down the route of using someone professional if:
- You have property abroad
- You are looking to decrease your Inheritance Tax bill – this is something to consider if your estate exceeds the £325,000 threshold
- You own foreign bank accounts or investments
- You own a business that you want to leave to someone as part of your Will
- You have people, other than your immediate family, that are financially dependent on you
- Your wishes could be misunderstood or are even a bit complex
Other cases where Will kits aren’t great…
- Residue of your estate – a common mistake with DIY Wills is they do not deal with the ‘whole’ of the residue of your estate properly. The residue is what is left over after you have given away specific gifts. If the whole of the residue is not dealt with properly, you could be left with what is known as a partial intestacy – this would defeat the whole object of writing a Will in the first place!
- Having children under 18 – professionals can also help you to make provisions for children under the age of 18. For example, you want to leave money to them but you don’t want them to be able to access it until they are 21. This is possible by using what is known as a trust. These are very complicated and if there are mistakes, your children could be left with nothing! A professional can make sure this does not happen.
- You can also appoint a Guardian in your Will for minor children. A Professional can ensure that this is done correctly so that you have peace of mind.
General rule of thumb with using Will kits are only use them if your wishes are very simple, your financial situation isn’t complicated and you feel comfortable that there will be no mistakes. Even if the mistake is small, the outcome can be disastrous.
Yes, you may save money up front by doing it yourself, but get it wrong and your family is left to sort out the mess. This could easily stir up trouble between family and friends when it comes to sorting out finances after you’ve died and could be a false economy as the cost of sorting things out will far outweigh the small cost of having a professionally drawn up Will.
Another point to bear in mind is that the company that you buy the Will writing kit from has no legal responsibility for your Will being correct. Mistakes made in your Will is down to you and there won’t be a legal comeback at all…
Still happy to make your own Will?
If after reading this article you still want to go down the route of writing your own Will, make sure you do the following:
- The Will must be signed, dated and witnessed correctly
- Be ever so careful with the spelling, epically when it comes to spelling people’s names
- Be very specific e.g. don’t just leave everything to ‘my wife’ – use your wife’s full name
- Make sure is it clear that the new one revokes the old Will
- The executor will need to know where the Will is being stored, they’ll need to know when you die
Want some advice?
I have over 16 years’ previous experience as a Solicitor writing Wills and dealing with Estates and Trusts. Speaking with me costs nothing and a straight forward Will could cost as little as £99.
We hope you found this article useful, if so, you may also like to read another blog, ‘Can a Will be Contested‘.