It is estimated that two-thirds of adults in the UK do not have a Will, meaning that the strict laws of intestacy will determine how the Estate is to be distributed – sometimes to the surprise and disappointment of the family and friends left behind. What is not known, however, is how many people have prepared ‘home-made’ Wills.
Having an up to date professionally drawn Will can save costs in the long run and give you the reassurance of knowing that when you die, your Estate will go to the people you wish to benefit. Without one, difficulties can often arise after you die resulting, at best, in additional costs to your Estate and, at worst, in your Estate going to people other than those you intend should benefit.
The specialist Wills and Probate lawyers at Enoch Evans LLP’s Walsall and Sutton Coldfield offices are all too familiar with cases where a deceased person has left a “home-made Will” prepared by them or a family member handwritten on a sheet of paper or a stationer’s will form or typed using suggested wordings found on the internet. In most cases this causes problems – sometimes serious. The Will may be invalid because the strict rules for the signing of Wills have not been precisely complied with. In that case, the Will is treated as not existing at all. Even if it is valid, significant additional costs may be incurred in interpreting a Will which is wholly or partly illegible or where the names of the Executors or beneficiaries are unclear or the Deceased has not explained clearly what their wishes and intentions are.
Moreover, where the intelligent and well-meaning Testator uses a word which has a precise legal meaning, without necessarily understanding the legal effect, the Deceased is treated as having understood and intended to use that precise word. Indeed, in a case called Re Cook (1948) a Testator who left “all my personal estate whatsoever” had not made a gift of his land and the building upon it, probably the most valuable part of his Estate, because the technical language used specifically excluded this. The land and building passed under intestacy, contrary to the Testator’s wishes.
It is quite often the case that a home-made Will fails to take into account the possibility of a beneficiary passing away before the Will maker; the result can be that part of the Estate may pass under intestacy, which could result in people other than who they would wish to benefit
It is easy to think that having made a Will, there is no real need to give it any further thought afterwards, but an out of date Will can have serious consequences. Changes in personal and family circumstances or the law can mean that a Will which might once have achieved its purpose no longer does so. However, the Will remains valid and this could lead to the person’s Estate being distributed differently from how they intend or in more Inheritance Tax being payable on the Estate than is necessary. We strongly advise clients with existing Wills to review them regularly, particularly if there is a change in your circumstances
When someone who has no valid Will at all dies (known as an intestacy), the law states who will benefit from their Estate and in what shares. Although it might be thought this means the Estate will pass to those family members the deceased wanted to benefit, this is not always the case.
Whilst not making a Will, or not replacing an out of date Will with a new professionally drawn one may have the initial attraction of saving costs in the short term, potentially incurring those costs can result in a substantial saving to a deceased person’s Estate later on.
The expert lawyers in the Wills, Tax and Probate team at Enoch Evans LLP have a wealth of experience in advising upon and drafting Wills. The Department is accredited by the Law Society for membership of its elite Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (‘WIQS’). Enoch Evans LLP are also happy to store client’s Wills securely; this offers client’s peace of mind that the Will can easily be located by your Executors following your death and that your wishes will be followed.