The importance of a well written Will

“Why does a Will cost so much” and “what’s to stop me writing my own Will” are questions we as Lawyers get asked regularly.  The truth is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing your own Will but this can carry its own risks.  Yes, you may save a few hundred pounds in the short term but you could run the risk of your family or chosen beneficiaries losing a lot more in the long run.

Let’s look at an example of Jane Doe’s homemade Will:

“This is the last Will and Testament of me JANE DOE of 1 The Street, Newtown.

I appoint my Friend JOHN SMITH to be my Executor.

I wish my body to be cremated.

I give to my friend JOHN SMITH my house 1 The Street, Newtown absolutely

I give £5,000 to my friend VALERIE GREEN

I give £5,000 to my friend SUSAN WHITE

SIGNED         Jane Doe

Witnessed     I Rain

J Summer “

Jane decided to write her Will herself.  At the time of making her Will, Jane owned her property and had £10,000 in the bank.  You will see that she made a gift of her property to one friend and divided the cash in her bank account between two of her other friends.  The homemade Will is a valid Will.  However, at the time of her death years later, Jane had £25,000 in the bank.

Jane’s Will doesn’t account for any other assets and in this scenario, results in a partial intestacy.  An intestacy occurs when a person dies either without leaving a Will, their Will is invalid, or as we see here, their Will doesn’t cover their whole estate.  Under the rules of intestacy, the Law of England and Wales dictates who inherits a person’s estate.  The Law will always look for the closest blood relative of the whole blood or failing that, the half blood.  It may be necessary for family members to be traced professionally should the Executors not know how to contact them.

Unfortunately, after undertaking a thorough search at a cost to her estate, it transpired that Jane did not have any surviving family members who could inherit her estate.  This means that the remainder of the money not dealt with under her handwritten Will passes to the State.  It is unlikely that this is what Jane would have wanted and most likely she would have preferred to increase the value of the gifts passing to her friends or maybe even include a charity.

Had Jane sought professional advice at the time, these issues would have been picked up on and discussed with her.  When drafting Wills, we would always discuss the ‘what ifs’ and various issues that could occur in the future.  This is just one issue that could occur with a homemade Will; ensuring you receive good advice and have a well written Will in place now can guarantee that your wishes are correctly carried out in the future and potentially save a lot of problems for your Executors.

Here at Whitehead Monckton we are qualified to give you the best possible advice when it comes to planning for your succession.  If you would like to know more or are thinking about making a Will, please get in touch with one of our team today.