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28th January 2019
It may seem as simple as scribbling down your wishes and signing them off, but if your estate is more complex than simply wanting to give your savings to your children – and the majority of people’s wills are – there are many more factors to be aware of. The importance of having a correctly put together will cannot be overexpressed. And as such, advice on making a will in the UK is broad and far-reaching. So we’ve narrowed this article down to target ten of the most common mistakes in wills. People up and down the country make these mistakes every year, so be aware of the issues you may face and you’ll be able to ensure that you have an accurate and valid will when you die.
You need two witnesses to ensure that your signed will is valid. They need to be physically present in the room when the will is signed, and both witnesses need to be there at the same time. Having enough witnesses may sound obvious, but it’s very important – even the smallest actions can have major consequences. For instance, if one of the witnesses sign the will separately, the entire will could be invalid. Already more specific than anticipated?
Choosing the right people to witness the signing of your will is equally as important as having enough people to do so. The witnesses must be entirely independent, meaning that they won’t benefit from the will and they need to both be over 18.
It’s crucial that the witnesses are independent. If they are beneficiaries, your will could be made invalid as it would be reasonable to claim that you were under pressure to sign the will. A particularly good suggestion of someone to witness the signing of your will is your GP. Your doctor is unlikely to be a beneficiary, and as well as that, they can later be relied on to refute claims that you were not of sound mind when signing the document if necessary. When looking into the ins and outs of producing a valid will it’s useful to remember that when you are no longer here, all next of kin and others close to you will be left to accept the outcome of your will alone. If there is any ambiguity or room for disputes to take place, you won’t be able to clear them up. And this is why your will needs to be spot on.
When you die, your original will is required to administer your estate. A photocopy won’t do. In fact, without the original, it can be almost impossible for your executors to obtain a grant of probate, making it impossible to have your wishes fulfilled.
Of course, requiring access to the original will means that the security of the document is of utmost importance. There are plenty of will storage options available out there, but here at IMC, we have our own storage facility. Working with us can help you rest easy knowing that your will is in safe hands.
Forgetting to name an executor is an easy mistake to make, but it can be a very costly one. You will need to choose an executor to deal with the administration of your estate in accordance with your will. If you don’t name one, the probate court will choose an executor who you may not have chosen. Unlike witnesses, there are no real restrictions as to who you appoint as executor, they just have to be aged over 18.
Once you have written your will, it’s also important to remember to update and renew it when and if any circumstances change. For example upon getting married or having children, or perhaps having lost loved ones who you had wanted to leave assets to.
Unfortunately, you cannot simply scribble a note down on the document when you make a change – you will have to do it officially. Any changes to your will have to be signed and witnessed just like the original. If you wish to make particularly big changes to the will, you may be better off writing an entirely new one.
It’s important to never make assumptions. One of the most common traps people fall into when writing their will is the assumption that there are legal grounds for automatically qualifying as a beneficiary as a ‘common law spouse’. Many believe that, if they have been in a relationship for and lived with their partner long enough, they will be treated as a spouse in the eyes of the law. That is not the case and the process for dying intestate will be followed. If you are unmarried, your partner will receive nothing unless named in the will.
The same goes for any step-children you may have. While you may be married to their parent, the law of intestacy will not provide your step-children with any part of your estate. In contrast, although also not biologically your own, the state views adopted children as yours and they will be viewed as such if you are to die intestate. This does not extend to foster children.
You should also remember not to assume that you will be the first to die in your family. Always be sure to make provisions and ensure that all bases are covered so that your family are provided for.
As above, you cannot be too specific or thorough in your will. Some of the most common mistakes in wills come about when people are not explicit enough with their wishes. In certain situations, it is advisable that you provide a good reason for your wishes. For instance, if you wish to leave a close family member out of the will, give a specific reason to stop the will from being challenged by disgruntled dependents. Although this might sound harsh, it is just as important to consider if there are any individuals you do not want to, or do not need to benefit from your estate as well as who you really want to. There may be individuals with grounds for benefitting who may dispute not being included. If this is stated in your will, such disputes will not lead to anything,
You should also make your wishes clear when it comes to a gift falling through. If, for instance, a relative you would like to leave money to dies and you would like it to go to their children, ensure it’s clear. If you do not, it will just be put back into your estate.
While it is important to make your wishes explicit in your will, at times it can be just as important to not be overly specific. If assets may change between your writing of the will and your death, you may leave room for somebody to contest your will if your wishes are too explicit.
For instance, if you wish to leave your eldest child your car but refer to it specifically as ‘my Vauxhall Astra’ but die while owning a Renault Clio, the gift would be considered invalid if the will was contested. When leaving assets that may change to your will’s beneficiaries, you should instead be far broader. Use phrases like ‘my car’ or ‘my watch’ over ‘my Audi A5’ or ‘my Rolex Submariner’. If you would like to leave a specific asset, be sure to update your will whenever those assets change to avoid any complications.
We’ve covered the reasons why writing a will on your own can be damaging to its validity in other posts but it is worth summarising here. Ultimately, wills are important – often very complex – legal documents that need to be 100% accurate, this level of accuracy is very difficult to achieve without professional knowledge. The death of a loved one is a stressful enough time for a family without an imperfect will causing the deceased’s wishes to remain unfulfilled. Writing a will without professional assistance is never advisable.
Dying without a will can land you in a very bad situation. It’s important to remember that unless you’re intending on leaving your estate to your spouse alone and/or have a very simple estate, dying without a will can cause a lot of trouble. You will have no control over how your estate is split up and you – and anyone else for that matter – won’t be able to make any last minute changes once you’ve gone.
Making these mistakes is far too easy when you write your own will. Contact the friendly IMC team today for a professional will writing service that guarantees your wishes will be met.
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