The pitfalls of a DIY will
Written by Cindy-Marie Leicester on January 17, 2016.
We all love a bargain. The thought of paying less for something always feels like a small victory. This is the reason why an off-the-shelf DIY will pack is an appealing solution for many people. These can be purchased for as little as £20 which compares favourably with paying between £200 and £500 for a solicitor-drafted will (without tax advice). The short-term savings you make at this stage could, however, be a drop in the ocean compared to the costs incurred from making mistakes with what is a very important legal document, not to mention the stress for those left behind trying to sort out the mess.
Figures from the Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) suggest that poorly drafted or ineffective DIY wills are to blame for a prolonged probate ordeal for 38,000 families a year.
An invalid or incorrect last will and testament could land your loved ones with hefty legal bills and unnecessary tax to pay. 10% of the value of a person’s estate can be absorbed in additional fees as a result of an ineffective will. With the average estate in the UK standing at £160,000, this could equate to as much as £16,000-worth of probate fees. Suddenly the solicitor fees sound like a much better deal.
I agree with UK consumer body Which? who state that there are scenarios when a DIY will may well work for you but only if your affairs are simple. An example might be a married couple leaving their assets to each other when their combined estate is below the inheritance tax threshold.
As soon as business assets and questions of domicile enter the equation, professional advice should be sought. Similarly, if you are not married, have extended family or second families, your affairs become more complicated and expert advice is crucial. The consequences of wills going wrong can be far-reaching and extremely stressful. It might mean people losing their only source of income, property can be left in limbo and your family could suffer both financially and emotionally. In short, the fallout is huge and easily avoided for a small outlay up front.
Another issue with DIY wills is their inability to deal with changes in circumstance. For example, marriage will revoke a will, unless written in anticipation of a specific intended. A one-time will can be just as costly as no will.
Expats face additional issues when it comes to estate planning. If you are no longer resident in the UK but retain assets there as well as acquiring additional international assets, you will need country specific wills dealing with your assets in each territory and will need to ensure that they do not invalidate each other.