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How Homemade Wills Could Leave Bereaved Families with Less

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National law firm Clarke Willmott LLP has issued a warning against families creating DIY wills amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Private client specialists at the firm say enquiries about wills have increased dramatically since the coronavirus outbreak, but with some obstacles – such as witnessing – to creating them, the team is concerned some people may go down the DIY route.

According to Jacqui Lazare, senior associate at Clarke Willmott, homemade wills can give rise to a number of problems and even result in beneficiaries receiving significantly reduced sums.

Jacqui said:

There are some difficulties in executing wills at the moment, but this means expert advice is needed now more than ever, as the situation is changing rapidly.

Homemade wills can appear attractive because of their nominal cost and, during these unusual times, the logistics of the lockdown with people being advised to self-isolate and practice social distancing.

They can, however, cause problems which may lead to considerable stress and difficulty for the testator’s surviving family and, at its worst, result in significant depletion of the estate’s assets in sorting out the disputes that may then arise.

That’s why a professionally drafted will is so important. Avoid causing family members any further unnecessary heartache further down the line by providing them with a solid document which is clear, structured and easy to adhere to.

A professionally drafted will avoids problems arising from incorrect form or signature and, in an age of increasing longevity, may also lessen the likelihood of disputes over capacity as this will be assessed, and a medical opinion sought if necessary.

Inheritance disputes have seen an upward trend since 2015. This is due to a number of factors including an increase in average family wealth and the rise of “blended” families with more complicated structures.

In 2017 the Law Commission began a review and consultation on the law relating to wills. This exercise may in the longer term lead to courts having the power to “save” a will which is invalid due to failure to adhere to strict requirements about the form in which it should be made and signed. But even if the law is eventually changed in this way, it should only be regarded as a backstop, as any court application incurs costs and creates uncertainty.

The report also raised the possibility of electronic wills, including video wills, becoming an accepted will-making medium in the future.

Jacqui continued:

If you are making your own will it is difficult to take an objective, detached view of the provisions you intend to include; talking your thoughts over with an experienced professional who is trained to recognise problems and pitfalls can be invaluable.

“If your estate, or your children’s, is likely to pay inheritance tax, a professionally drafted will can also help you to reduce this as much as possible. Secure storage can also be provided free of charge so your will can be easily located when required.

To find out more or to speak to Jacqui about wills directly, contact her at [email protected]

Clarke Willmott is a national law firm with offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.

For more information visit www.clarkewillmott.com