The hazards of a homemade will
You’ve decided to build a nice extension on your home. So you download some plans from the internet, buy some bricks and other stuff, and build it. Really? Surely the sensible thing would be to get a professional builder involved so you can be sure your new extension is 100% safe and will stand the test of time?
Apply the same logic to writing your will. It’s one of the most important documents you will ever draw up. So why do it yourself and risk something going wrong, rather than instructing a solicitor?
It’s probably safe to assume that many people who choose the homemade route do it to save money. Little do they realise that it may cost their family a great deal of money when a lawyer has to sort things out after their death.
There are lots of little things which can make a big difference here. For example, for a will to be legally binding it must be signed by the person making it and witnessed by two independent adults who must be present at the same time. If they sign at different times the will is invalid. And if someone who may benefit from the will acts as a witness this could compromise their inheritance. Complicated enough already.
If you instruct a lawyer to draw up your will you’ll meet a legally qualified person who listens to what you want and advises on how your wishes can be carried out.
Another common problem with homemade wills is that they simply get lost. It’s really important that your will is stored safely and can be found easily. Your lawyer should be able to store the will for you, often free of charge, in a strong room or safe. Some will even send you reminders to review your will to make sure it is up to date.
A word of warning about cheap wills: Be careful when it comes to cheap will writer as they are often not legally qualified and they may make an annual storage charge which could cost you several hundred pounds.
So, our tip? Don’t cut corners when making a will. It may lead to high legal costs or an invalid will which could mean a lot of hassle for your family when you’re gone and could even mean your assets end up going to someone you don’t wish to benefit.
Ann-Marie Matthews is a solicitor in the private client team at Barker Gotelee, Solicitors in Suffolk.