Do I need a lawyer to write a will?
Do-it-yourself wills are easy and cheap, making them an attractive proposition for many. But homemade wills can end up causing serious distress for loved ones if they’re not executed properly. Drafting errors can take a long time to resolve, and the final resolution may not reflect the true wishes of the owner of the will. Equally, DIY wills are more likely to be challenged on the grounds that the individual making it didn’t have mental capacity (for example, due to a condition like dementia), or that they were unduly influenced by someone.
So, if you’re asking the question: “Do I need a lawyer to write a will or update an existing one?” don’t leave anything to chance: get specialist legal support from a trained professional.
A will sets out your wishes for after you’ve gone
A will is a legal document setting out how you want your estate to be distributed on your death. Without a will in place, a judge will decide how your estate is divided. Your assets may not end up going where you want, or even where you expect.
A will can only be changed under two circumstances
A poorly executed will can cause uncertainty and may result in a will being contested. If a will is disputed, it’s the judge’s job to interpret what the deceased’s intentions were. A judge must do this objectively, using hard evidence. And there are only two circumstances under which a judge can rule that a will be changed.
1. A will can be changed if the judge is convinced it’s wrong through a clerical error, such as a wrong address
2. Or if the judge is convinced the will writer failed to understand instructions correctly
However, a will cannot be changed if the will writer has chosen inappropriate words.
A will may also be declared invalid under certain circumstances
There are also certain circumstances under which a will can be declared invalid. This includes if it can be proven the person whose will it is either:
- Lacked knowledge and approval: a situation when the person making the will was unaware or couldn’t understand the contents of the will
- Lacked capacity: this is when a person is unable to make a valid will due to a condition affecting their mental capacity, such as dementia
- Was under undue influence: when someone has been forced or coerced into making a will that doesn’t reflect their true wishes, this may include threats or force
The process of challenging a will can be extremely lengthy: it may take up to 24 months for a case to be heard in court. For this reason, disputed wills are often settled out of court, an outcome that may fail to fully satisfy the parties involved.
A specialist can help you create a watertight, tax-efficient will
Will writing is a very technical process, with certain words that have specific meanings in a legal context. Getting support from a trained professional can help to ensure your will is watertight in the eyes of the law. They can also guide you through all the necessary procedures you need to take to safeguard against your will being challenged.
In the event a will is disputed, a judge needs to be convinced that it’s either wrong through a clerical error or the will writer failed to understand instructions correctly. This must be proven with documental evidence. Homemade wills often lack a paper trail; however, a trained specialist will help you document the will writing process, ensuring the necessary paperwork is available should it be needed in the future.
Additionally, writing your will with a solicitor helps ensure your estate is dealt with in a tax-efficient way. This means being able to maximise the assets you pass on to your loved ones.
It's never too late to update your will, even a DIY one
If you’ve got an existing will, solicitors recommend you review and update it every five years, or when a major change in your life occurs that impacts you or your loved ones. This might be a divorce, birth or new home.
It’s also worth noting if you’ve got a DIY will you’re concerned might not be right, it’s never too late to take steps to correct it. A legal expert can help review your will and redraft it if necessary. They can also help you create a brand-new will if you haven’t yet got one.
Whatever your circumstances, an SFE lawyer can help
SFE lawyers undergo extensive additional training in all areas of later life law, including will writing. Whether you need to update an existing will, review a DIY will or draft a new one, an SFE lawyer can help.
Click on the following link to find your nearest SFE lawyer