Warning over DIY wills

Lucy Mignot, specialist in contentious probate and trust disputes at award-winning law firm Blanchards Bailey LLP, has issued a warning over online DIY wills
Lucy Mignot, specialist in contentious probate and trust disputes at award-winning law firm Blanchards Bailey LLP, has issued a warning over online DIY wills

A Dorset legal specialist has warned that ‘risky’ online do-it-yourself wills can be a false economy leading to estates being drained by litigation costs or tax bills.

The popularity of online wills surged during the pandemic with many people considering them a good alternative to the traditional way of drafting a will.

However, Lucy Mignot, Senior Associate and specialist in contentious probate and trust disputes at award-winning law firm Blanchards Bailey LLP urges caution.

“These super simplistic online wills may seem an attractive prospect and will save money in the short term, but a watertight will is not just a click away.

“DIY wills are a false economy and the estate could easily be eaten up after death by the costs of litigation or an unnecessary tax bill.

“The online solution is really only suitable for the most genuinely straightforward of wills. Anything more complicated should be handled by a professional legal expert.”

She said many DIY wills were unable to take complex situations into account and there was also little liability on firms offering such a service if anything went wrong.

Lucy, who leads a specialist team of three at expanding Blanchards Bailey in Blandford, said this could spark a huge rise in contested probate cases in years to come.

She was speaking after Independent research and consultancy business Funeral Solution Expert released survey results of the competitive and largely unregulated sector which revealed countless concerns.

Lucy said the research indicated that online wills rarely covered all situations and left individuals or their estates open to future claims, raised the issue of mental capacity and questioned how consumers could check a particular online will was suitable for their needs without specialist knowledge or advice.

She added: “The problem with DIY wills is that it is very easy to get the formalities of signing/witnessing wrong and end up making them invalid often leading to different beneficiaries or proceeds going to the state.

“Also testators often don't consider what they want to happen if their intended beneficiaries predecease them. Again, this can lead to a result contrary to what the testator intended.
 
“Ambiguity in a will is another real problem and all the more likely in a DIY will. Where a term is ambiguous, this may have to be resolved by an expensive court application.”

Lucy, who has been advising on trust and probate disputes for 11 years, added: “I cannot overstate the benefit of a file of papers relating to the preparation of a will, which can provide the evidence needed to avoid claims based on alleged lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence etc.

“I see instances involving homemade wills where the testator has lacked the technical legal knowledge to put their wishes into place effectively, resulting in significant costs being paid from the estate and a lot of stress for the family, even where there was no dispute.”

Lucy is recommended in the Blanchards Bailey litigation and disputes team by the Legal 500, the independent guide to legal firms and solicitors in the UK.

Ninety-strong Blanchards Bailey is a Legal 500 ranked firm – making it one of the top firms in the South West – and is based in Blandford with offices in Poundbury, Shaftesbury and Weymouth.

The firm received extensive recognition in the UK's leading law sector directory, the Legal 500. The annual publication, The Legal 500 2020/21, ranks the firm in six categories with 11 individual lawyers recommended or mentioned.

 

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