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Why You Shouldn’t Write Your Own Will

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Research shows that nearly two thirds of UK adults do not have a Will. It is one of those things people routinely neglect, even though a Will is a vital way of protecting wealth, legacy and loved ones.

If you have been putting it off, one tempting solution might be to write your own Will, but is this the best solution?

The risk is that if your Will is not carefully written, detailed and thorough enough, it may end up being invalid.

What Happens if Your DIY Will is Invalid?

If you write your own Will and, for any reason, it is invalid, the consequences can be long-reaching, disruptive and distressing.

If your Will becomes a source of conflict in your family, it can become a drawn-out affair.

Should this conflict escalate, it can mean spiralling legal costs, with no visible end in sight.

When someone dies, the situation is typically stressful anyway. A protracted, and costly legal dispute can then add to the stress for all involved.

Therefore, there are several critical questions that a DIY raises:

  • Is it legal?
  • Is it usable?
  • Will it stand up in court?

Is Your DIY Will Legal?

The good news is that ANY Will is legal, providing it meets certain conditions.

For example, some people choose to write holographic Wills. These are Wills that are entirely handwritten and signed by the testator (the person whose Will it is).

In theory, you could write your own Will on a plain piece of notepaper and it would be legally valid, but only if:

  • There is evidence that you have actually created the Will yourself, which someone will then be able to prove
  • That you have the mental capacity to write the Will
  • The Will expresses your wish to distribute your estate to the beneficiaries you name.

Typically, this sort of handwritten Will is more common if there is some sort of emergency situation.

There are other, more structured ways of writing your own Will, where you purchase a Will writing kit, either online or from a physical store.

Usually, a DIY Will writing kit gives you standard sections to complete and will include certain legal terms.

In many cases, this is going to be an improvement on handwriting your own Will from scratch, because it will provide a standard, recognised way of expressing your wishes.

But even so, taking this DIY approach can leave your Will exposed to the potential for disputes and disagreements.

If you use a Will writing template, the company that provides it will not take any responsibility for whether you then make a correct Will using it.

What can go wrong?

  • Small, basic errors can end up delaying your Will or making it invalid
  • Wrongly spelt names or incorrect addresses of beneficiaries can lead to problems
  • If you make handwritten amendments without witnesses then this can make your Will invalid.

Is Your Self-written Will a Usable Document?

Many people find that organising an estate uncovers more areas of complexity than they first realised.

For example, if you have children, are you going to name a legal guardian for them in your Will, should you die while they are still young?

When you specify a beneficiary in your Will, should you include a substitute beneficiary in the event that the original beneficiary you’ve named dies before you do?

For a Will to be usable, it must cover a range of circumstances, but it must also be clear and unambiguous in its intentions.

Even if you write a DIY Will that follows a template, if you’re not a legal expert, then there is the risk that you will fail to capture all the angles when it comes to making your wishes clear for your estate.

Should this happen, then the Will you’ve written yourself will not be usable.

Will Your Will Stand Up in Court?

If someone chooses to contest your Will, how confident can you be that it will stand up in a court of law?

In a worst-case scenario, your Will could be declared invalid, or you could end up leaving your loved ones to fight a costly legal case to clear up issues from your Will.

You can buy an online Will-writing kit for as little as £22.99, but this is no guarantee that you will then have a legally watertight document.

There are various grounds for contesting a Will, including:

  • Incapacity of the testator
  • Invalidity
  • Undue influence, when someone has interfered with the making of the will
  • Fraud or forgery
  • Reasonable financial provision, where beneficiaries with a right to the estate have either not been named in the Will or it has not adequately provided for them.

If you have written your own Will, the burden is on you alone to make sure your Will is not contestable in court under any of these conditions.

Does a DIY Will Risk Intestacy?

The law of intestacy is specific about what happens if there is no valid Will.

Ultimately, if you die intestate, the Government decides who gets what from your estate, not you.

It would be ironic and unfortunate if, in writing your own Will, what you then ended up doing was losing control of what happens to your estate.

This is a very sound reason for thinking carefully before deciding to write your own Will.

Your Will is Important

A Will is likely to be the most important thing you’ll do with your property and your assets.

It involves making big decisions, which you need to express clearly, and in the right kind of detail.

If you are going to treat your Will with the importance it deserves, to protect your loved ones by looking after your estate properly, then you need to invest in it.

For more information about making your Will, please call 0800 088 6004, or fill in our online contact form, and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

Chloe Bagshaw


Chloe Bagshaw

Trainee Solicitor

Chloe is a Trainee Solicitor in the Private Client team at our Kettering office.