Around 70% of us die without a Will in the UK each year. This is referred to as dying ‘intestate’ and in these cases there are a standard set of rules called The Intestacy Rules, which set out who will receive the your estate. Even though they have been updated to take account of modern family dynamics and they do not adequately provide for unmarried partners and other loved ones who are not related to us by blood or marriage. This is why solicitors always advise clients of the importance of having a Will.
However, when I give this advice I am often faced with a question about the validity of “home-made” Wills, which are put together using kits purchased online or in a stationery store. The answer that I generally give is that an “off the shelf Will” can pass through Probate without any problem at all, provided that it is properly put together and properly executed. Therefore some Will is better than no Will at all.
However, the great advantage of instructing a professional to draft your Will is that you not only benefit from the solicitor’s drafting skills, reducing the chance of errors occurring, you will also receive advice about issues you may not even have thought about.
For example, if you are leaving part of your estate to your children, a solicitor will advise you to think about inserting a clause which will operate if one of your children dies before you, so his/her children, that is, your grandchildren, will benefit from your child’s share, rather than these assets going to the other beneficiaries. We can advise you about the implication of leaving assets in trust for certain beneficiaries and we can discuss with you the option of leaving a beneficiary a life interest in an asset rather than leaving that asset as an outright gift. All of this means that seeking professional advice can open your eyes to options which you may not have been aware of otherwise.We can provide you with information about your Estate’s potential Inheritance Tax liability so that you are better informed to deal with your affairs in the most efficient way.
The short answer to the question “are off the shelf Wills valid?” is probably, yes but in answer to the question “are off the shelf Wills as good as tailored Wills?” I would say most probably not, as you are unlikely to have explored all of the options available to you and considered all of the potential issues which may arise after your death.
Finally, at The Law House, we offer lifetime free storage of the Will. We also diarise your matter for five years ahead so that we can remind you to review your Will at that point to ensure it still reflects your wishes and is up to date with your personal and financial circumstances – this service is not available “off the shelf!”
If you would like to receive expert advice about making a Will, please contact Venisha Shah on 020 8899 6620 or email email@example.com