Writing a Will may not be on everyone’s mind. In fact, according to The National Wills Report 2023, only 44% of us have made one. People seem to think that only those with large estates need to bother with making a Will, but the truth is, having a Will in place is important for everyone. Whether you have significant assets or just a few belongings, a Will ensures that your wishes are known and can help provide clarity and peace of mind for your loved ones after you’re gone. Beyond gifts of money and material possessions, a Will enables you to appoint guardians for your children, provide directions as to your pets or set up a trust for your beneficiaries, amongst other things. At the very least, it allows you to designate a trusted person (called an executor) who will manage and administer your estate after your passing. Dying without a Will (known as dying intestate) can create complications and uncertainty, adding unnecessary stress to your loved ones at an already emotionally challenging time. By taking the time to draft a Will, you can alleviate this burden and find comfort in knowing that your last wishes are documented.
Unfortunately, simply writing your wishes on a piece of paper and signing it does not automatically make it a valid Will. In the UK and throughout the world, there are legal requirements that must be followed. Whilst this may seem excessive, it is essential for your Will to comply with the law as these documents involve the distribution of property and funds that rightfully belong to you. We all want the law to help us in the event of mistreatment, and protecting and allocating our assets post death should be no exception. But as some may say, nothing worth having comes easy, as understanding a legal Will (or how to properly draft one) can often pose some challenges! The legal framework governing Wills is rooted in old traditions, and it often struggles to keep pace with the ever-changing modern terminology. Over the last few years, the field has been gradually adapting and making efforts to simplify the wording used in Wills. However, although the intricate wording in legal Wills may be difficult to read and comprehend, this complexity serves a crucial purpose. The specific language used in legal Wills adheres to the requirements imposed by the law, ensuring that the clauses and provisions are able to withstand any potential challenges in court. The precise wording is designed to leave no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation and the importance lies in the fact that this wording provides the necessary legal framework to protect your wishes.
If you think you can write your own Will, I would err on the side of caution. Mistakes and errors can ultimately lead to the Will becoming invalid or being easily disputed. In the UK, such disputes have risen by 37% since the pandemic (according to FOI request made by law firm Nockolds), mainly due to homemade Wills; and just last year, UK Inheritance Disputes Report carried out a survey revealing that 3 in 4 people are likely to experience a will, inheritance or probate dispute in their lifetime. Asking a legal professional to draft your Will can help safeguard your estate from meeting the same fate. A legal professional possesses the right legal knowledge to ensure your intentions are accurately expressed and are legally binding. They can guide you through the process of drafting a comprehensive Will and can prevent any potential legal disputes or complications that may arise after your passing. Alas, contemplating our own mortality may seem daunting but it allows us to provide for our loved ones, protect our assets and leave a lasting legacy based on our intentions. So, if you need to write a Will or simply need to review it, there is no time like the present.
– Private Client Executive, Alisa Morrison