Professional will-making advice is the best way to ensure your beneficiaries follow your wishes
Anecdotal evidence continues to point to a steady growth in the number of wills being challenged, although no clear evidence is emerging to explain this increase. Influential factors could include the increasingly complex nature of modern family structures, the economic climate, and perhaps an increasing reliance by some on the internet for legal advice.
Unsurprisingly, any solicitor would suggest that a matter as important as ensuring all your worldly goods are distributed according to your wishes should be done by someone who knows what they are doing. It is all too easy to cut corners or attempt to draw up your own will but, if you choose a do-it-yourself approach, it is worth thinking about what might happen in future if things go wrong.
Imagine the scene – you instructed a solicitor to prepare a will some years ago. Now, as you approach the later stages of your life, you decide you want to amend that will and you decide to ask a friend or family member to prepare a codicil – a document that changes your will – and then you simply sign it.
But a codicil, like the will itself, must be properly signed in the presence of witnesses otherwise it will not be valid in the eyes of the law – and if a home-made codicil is unclear, a disappointed beneficiary could be in a position to challenge it. Perhaps they will allege you were subjected to undue influence or, in your hospital bed, did not realise what you were signing. They may even suggest that you no longer had mental capacity to make such decisions. Whether or not any of these assertions are true, a do-it-yourself approach opens the door to the possibility of a claim that, if nothing else, is likely to lead to delay and expense.
On the other hand, all of this could be avoided if you engage a competent solicitor to help you amend your will. A solicitor can ensure any codicil is clear and unambiguous, that it accurately reflects your wishes rather than someone else’s and, if there are any doubts about your capacity, ensure this possibility is thoroughly examined – and the cost of their fee is likely to be a small price to pay in order to avoid the chaos that often follows a do-it-yourself codicil.
General, George Ide, News, Private Client