A Pudsey-based law firm is warning that the rise in popularity of DIY or badly drafted wills is leading to a rise in the number of contested estates.
John Howe & Co is also foreseeing a spike in contested probate claims due to potential issues with the witnessing of wills while offices have been closed during lockdown.
Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 states that wills must be signed in the presence of two or more witnesses, it cannot be done by video link, the witnesses are required to be in the physical presence of the testator.
Common mistakes on a DIY will include:
- Wrongly witnessed
- Missing out assets
- Lack of knowledge on pecuniary and residual legacies
- Out of date bequests – following a death, divorce or other life changes
- Incorrectly made amendments – handwritten changes are not legal
John Howe said:
“Writing your own will, or buying an off-the-shelf template, might seem like a more cost-effective way of setting out your wishes but it is wrought with dangers.
“If a will is ruled to be invalid then the rules of intestacy come into play and the people you wished to leave your estate to may miss out as only certain people will benefit.
“Sadly, the pandemic has caused many people to consider their own mortality and think about how they wish their estate to be distributed.
“While DIY wills are not generally a good idea, we have even heard of cases where solicitors have not followed the letter of the law and witnessed wills via Zoom, awaiting the end of lockdown to complete the paperwork in person. This begs the question, what happens if the person dies or becomes mentally incapable in the meantime?
“If a will is contested with a person claiming the will was not witnessed correctly, it will be the people benefiting from the will that will have the burden of proving that it met the provisions set out in the Wills Act.
“A will is one of the most important pieces of paper you will ever sign so our advice would be to see a reputable, experienced solicitor to make sure your wishes are carried out when you are no longer around.”