Online and DIY wills: Experience vs. Convenience
As a Solicitor in Switalskis’ Wills and Probate Department, I make a living by preparing wills and dealing with the administration of clients’ estates after they have passed away.
Collectively, our team have many years’ experience of asking clients the right questions to determine what they want to achieve in their will. We find out such things as who they wish to include (or exclude) in the will, or who they want to be in charge of sorting things out. In the course of our discussions with clients, we provide advice on a whole range of issues including: Inheritance Tax liability and planning, care home fees, claims against the estate, and Lasting Powers of Attorney. This ensures that the client’s will deals with the whole circumstances and not just the one or two issues they may have considered.
I am skeptical that a short internet questionnaire, or notes for guidance in an off-the-shelf will kit, can offer the same level of tailoring to an individual client’s needs.
Are DIY wills valid?
There are certain legal formalities that must be complied with in the signing of a will to ensure that it is valid. It never ceases to amaze me how often people either don’t understand (and don’t ask) or simply don’t follow the instructions given. We offer a personal service that means, by overseeing the signing of your will, you can be sure that all the necessary legal requirements are fulfilled.
Can the same be said for internet or DIY wills?
An important aspect of wills advice is assessing whether or not the person looking to make the will has the legal capacity to do so. We also assess whether the person is being pressured into making the will in a particular way. I have a serious concern with online wills, the same concern there has always been about DIY wills – how can we be sure that the person signing the document is the person named as the Testator in the will? Or if the correct person has signed the will, how can we be sure that they knew and understood what they were signing? Sadly people have been taken advantage of by neighbours, carers, friends and even close family members in this way. Using a solicitor who will meet the Testator (usually more than once) and keep clear records of meetings is an excellent safeguard against fraud. A solicitor acts to protect not just the Testator but the beneficiaries too, in case any issues arise about capacity or duress for the Testator, or if there is a falling out amongst family and beneficiaries.
Wills advice for peace of mind
We prepare documents that meet all the essential legal criteria and ensure that they are signed in the appropriate way to ensure their validity. Before a client signs a will, we always go through it with them in detail ensuring that they fully understand what it says – in plain English. The client will have every opportunity to ask questions and to make tweaks and changes if necessary.
Your will is a very important document. It leaves your hard-earned assets and estate to the family, friends and charities who you want to inherit. It is vital to get it right – so go to the experts who will provide a professional service designed to meet your needs. Yes we charge more than you would pay on the internet, but you get so much more for your money and you get peace of mind that the job has been done properly. After all if the job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
To contact a member of the Wills, Trusts and Probate team please call 0800 138 0458 or send us a message using the contact form below and we will get back to you.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances.