It is perfectly legal to draw up your own Will, but unfortunately it is not an easy process. Errors can have far-reaching effects, resulting in family estrangements and lengthy and expensive legal battles.
A Will has to be drafted and executed in a specific way in order to be legally valid. It can be difficult to avoid ambiguity or to state clearly and in the correct terminology exactly what should happen to your assets after your death.
Points to consider when drafting a Will
Firstly, it must be clear that the document is a last Will and testament and include the full name and address of the person executing it.
One or more executors should be chosen and appointed, ideally with them being aware of this and having consented in advance.
Beneficiaries should be listed, together with the assets they are to receive. In some cases it may be better to leave lump sum gifts rather than a share in the residuary estate, and this is something that should be carefully considered. If your residuary estate is far less than you anticipate, this could result in someone receiving much less than you wanted or they were expecting.
You should appoint a guardian for any minor children and trustees for any trust that you intend to set up along with details of assets to be transferred to the trust.
Correct execution of a Will is essential, with witnesses also signing. In addition, it is essential that you have the capacity to make a Will.
Challenges to Wills
Recent figures show a steady increase of court cases where the families of deceased are challenging their Will. As well as creating a rift between people, this can result in the money left in any Will being swallowed up in legal expenses.
Ambiguity in the drafting of a Will is particularly risky. Where someone feels that there is a possibility they might be entitled to receive an asset, they will be more likely to bring a legal case than if the Will made clear it was not being left to them.
Avoiding disputes over a Will
Emotions run high after someone’s death and people can easily feel slighted or left out. A well-drafted Will that has been discussed beforehand with friends and relatives will go a long way to avoiding the stress and cost of a legal dispute.
By speaking to an expert who can explain the implications of your Will and also assist with any future planning, for example regarding tax or trusts, you can be as certain as possible that your assets will be passed on as you wish. The cost of a professionally drafted Will is very small in comparison with a legal dispute.