DIY (Do-It-Yourself) wills may sound like a quick, cheap and easy option. However, they come with a high risk of expense and often lead to problems. Wills are more complicated than most people think and DIY wills can lead to conflict and confusion after someone passes away.
What is a DIY will?
DIY wills are a template or outline of a will provided by a company. The company leaves you to fill in the blanks. You fill in your details and sign the will in your own time. No one checks or confirms that you have filled the will out correctly or that the will is legally effective. It sounds simple but the reality can often be far from it.
What does a DIY will include?
It includes standard wording and blanks for you to fill in your personal details. However, it also includes several risks.
Each person has a unique set of circumstances. Therefore, standard wording should be reviewed by a legal professional to ensure that an individual's will is appropriate for them. Outlined below are four reasons why relying on a DIY will isn't recommended.
1. Wills are complicated
Writing a will seems simple – but the reality is far from it. A DIY will won't prompt you to consider any potential complications or areas of confusion. For example – you might wish to leave a sum of money to a loved one. But have you considered if you want that sum to be paid before or after tax? If you wish to leave your house to your children do your title deeds allow you to do this? In Scotland, if your house is held in joint names, you may not have the right to pass it on to anyone other than the co-owner.
Additionally, what happens if you no longer own that house when you die? Do you want the house you live in at the time of your death to be included, or would you prefer the cash value of the property be left instead? A solicitor can talk you through each of these issues and explain your options.
2. No legal advice
Do you know what legal rights are, or how they might apply to your estate? Have you ever checked how inheritance tax might affect your ability to pass assets on to your family? Could someone make a claim on your estate whom you don't wish to benefit from your estate? Should your will include trust provisions?
A legal professional can advise on all these things and more – a DIY will provides no extra advice beyond the standard template.
3. Is your will properly signed?
Wills need to be signed in a particular manner and witnessed by an appropriate person. If you do not sign your will properly, it may not be valid. This means that it will have no legal effect and your estate may not be divided up in accordance with your wishes.
Additionally, how your will should be signed differs in Scotland compared to England and Wales. Your will should comply with the laws of the country you consider home – this may not be the country which you are in at the time of signing. Your solicitor will be able to check which country's laws apply to you and ensure that your will complies with these.
4. Is the will drafted under the correct country's law?
Most DIY will packs have been drafted by English companies with English customers in mind. Similarly, most online articles cater to English readers. These may not take account of the differences between Scots and English law or the different issues you should consider.
If you live in Scotland or consider Scotland to be your home most DIY wills may not be suitable for you. If you own property north and south of the border, or live between the two, it is likely you will need specialised advice.
Our online wills service, Wills by Brodies has the ease and affordable cost of a DIY will with the benefit of personalised and specialised advice from the largest private client team in Scotland. Answer some simple questions to get started.