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Mistakes to avoid when writing a will 

It is no secret that your will is arguably the most important document that you will ever write in your life.  
It single-handedly determines what happens to your assets after you are gone, and is the only way to guarantee that your wishes are properly met and loved ones properly taken care of. 
Below, our solicitors for wills run through common mistakes to avoid when writing a will. 

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MG Legal's expert private client solicitors are experienced in dealing with all aspects of wills, trusts, lasting powers of administration, probate matters and estate administration.  
Our solicitors for wills are continuously surprised to see that almost two thirds of adults of the UK do not have a valid will in place. 
On top of this, our solicitors for wills know that a number of the remaining third who do have a will in place, their loved will be unfortunately surprised after they have gone to learn that a mistake or error in their will has rendered the document invalid. Loved ones are often left with nothing, despite being promised certain gifts and properties as a part of the deceased’s will, simply due to a small mistake in the wording of the will. 
With the increase in online will writing services that are poorly regulated and have little legal backing, and people attempting to write a will alone without legal assistance, instances of this are unfortunately set to rise in coming years. The law surrounding the writing of wills is complex and requires a legal expert to be sure that the will is properly valid with no mistakes made throughout the process. With mistakes only being discovered after a loved one has passed away, and the relatives attempt to use the will, the mess is often left with grieving family and relatives. 
This can be an extremely stressful situation, and one that should be avoided at all costs. To help avoid this, our specialist solicitors for wills have ran through some of the most common mistakes relating to writing a will, and how to a void them. For the ultimate peace of mind, and to learn more about writing a will with a specialist solicitor for wills in a hassle-free way, simply contact us online here and discuss our reasonable, fixed-fee will writing services. 

The will being incorrectly witnessed: 

In order for a written will to be valid, it must be witnessed and signed by two witnesses who meet the following requirements- 
a UK citizen 
over the age of 18 
are NOT names beneficiaries who will benefit from the will (or married to a beneficiary) 
If these two witnesses are not physically present to sign the will, or are later found to not meet one of the requirements mentioned above for a witness of a will, then the will cannot be processed and will be deemed invalid. To learn more about appointing witnesses to sign your will, or to appoint our solicitors for wills as a witness for your will, contact us online here. 

Asking a beneficiary to witness your will- 

As previously mentioned, you cannot ask anybody who will benefit from your will in any way to be a witness. Many people would like their partner, or even their siblings’ partners, to be a witness to their will. However, doing so could stop them from being able to benefit from the will, or make the entire will invalid. 
If you believe that you have appointed a witness who was not eligible to act as a witness for your will, then get in touch with our solicitors for wills as soon as possible to discuss how we can help you to ensure that your will is valid. 

Not accounting for debts when writing your will- 

When somebody passes away, despite what many may think, their financial debts do not die with them. Once the estate value has been calculated after someone passes away, and before it can be distributed among the beneficiaries, any existing debts must be repaid and deducted from the estate value. Many people believe that all outstanding debts are written off when somebody dies, but this is not the case. Whether it is an unpaid loan or utility bill, all debt must be paid out of the deceased person’s estate, before the remaining balance is paid to the beneficiaries. 
Because of this, it is important to take into account any larger debts, such as mortgages, and how this might impact what your loved ones are left with after this is deducted from your estate. 

Attempting a DIY will- 

Our team of solicitors for wills know that you can make a power of attorney online, and there are endless online will writing services out there, but whether this is the right decision is an entirely different matter. Writing a will is a specialist legal process, which can be very complicated for those who are not well experienced in the legal drafting process. 
When you are writing your will online, or without proper legal assistance, there are a large number of mistakes that can be made, that can render your will not legally binding, when your loved ones come to enact your will after you have passed away. 
Instead, working with specialist solicitors for wills takes all of the risk and worries out of the will writing process, and means that you can be confident that the will is set up properly, worded properly, and be tailored to your specific needs and individual circumstances, and will be fully valid when it becomes needed. 
When you work with a specialist solicitor for wills such as MG Legal, our team will take all of the stress out of the process. Your designated solicitor for wills can easily provide you with all of the legal advice throughout the process, and will take care of the process on your behalf, allowing you to get on with your daily life and responsibilities, without having to take time out of your day. 

Failing to update will after major life events- 

Understandably, when you initially make your will, then chances are that you felt perfectly happy with how it was written, and what it meant for your loved ones. However, as time passes, and life changes, we must not underestimate the importance of regularly reviewing and updating your will so that it properly recently your current situation and wishes. Many of us have fast-moving lives, and regular life changes that could affect the wishes outlined in a will. 
Some common examples of life changes that should lead you to update your will, include: 
Getting divorced or separated 
Getting married 
New grandchildren being born 
Moving house 
A named executor of the will passes away 
If you acquire a valuable gift which should be appointed to somebody in your will 

Failing to specify any step-children- 

In blended families, many times partners will consider their step-children as their own, and wish for their will to reflect this in how their step-children benefit from their will. However, this is an assumption that cannot be made in writing your will, and if you state for ‘my children’ in the will, this will not automatically include any step children, or your partner’s children. 
In order for step-children to be included in your will, you must explicitly mention them by name to be beneficiaries to the will. 

Overly-specific description of assets- 

When writing your will, it is easy to think in the short-term, and about assets that you currently own at the time of writing your will. For example, the specific car that you own at the time, or the specific jewellery that you own, or artwork. However, life is constantly changing, and the chances are that your assets could well change throughout your life. 
Because of this, naming specific assets in your will, such as the ‘white BMW car’ to go to one of your children, this could lead to problems if your car has changed by the time your relatives come to distribute your will. Further, if you name a specific diamond ring, or piece of jewellery, that you don’t happen to own at the time you pass away, then your jewellery may not be passed onto your children or loved ones as you had wanted it to be. When you work with our specialist solicitors for wills on writing your will, we will ensure that your will is worded correctly, and with the right amount of specificity, to prevent confusion and potential disputes regarding your will. 

Not having a will in place at all- 

The most damaging mistake that our solicitors for Wills see in our clients that come to us, is not having a will in place at all. This is the biggest mistake possible. If you were to die without having a valid will in place, then this is known as having died intestate. Intestacy, or the estate of a person who has died without having a valid will in place, follows a set of rules which determine how the estate must be administered and distributed. Learn more on this here. 
Under this process, there is a set hierarchy of who should benefit from the estate. Still, no two families are the same, and there is no clear-cut way as to how you would like your estate to be distributed. 
The only way to ensure that your wishes are met, is to write a valid will that can ensure that your estate is distributed as you would like. To start the process of writing your will, with expert legal assistance, simply get in touch with our fixed-fee solicitors for wills online here, to learn more about how we can help. Or email us today at , or give us a call on 01772 783 314 to speak to a solicitor for wills today. 

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The Problem with Do-It-Yourself Wills: 

It can be so tempting to prepare a Will yourself, especially as DIY Wills are usually cheaper than having them professionally drafted. However, the adage “you get what you pay for” has never been truer. With a DIY Will kit available on for only £6.99, our solicitors for wills know what issues can occur with DIY Wills and what pitfalls you should look out for before deciding whether to take the plunge and draft your own Will, and what risks this could impose on your loved ones after your death. 

Hand-written amendments to a Will: 

A further issue that can occur with DIY Wills is when a person has made a DIY Will and then, years later, has made amendments to the Will, without having these changes formalised correctly. For example, Mr Smith leaves a DIY Will which appoints his only daughter as the sole executor and beneficiary. He signs the Will, in the presence of two friends, who act as his witnesses. Both witnesses sign, print their names and address on the Will, below Mr Smith’s signature. The Will is thus signed correctly, in accordance with s9 Wills Act 1837. 
Years later, Mr Smith decides he wants to add gifts to his four grandchildren of £100,000 each to helps towards the purchase of a house when they are ready. 
Mr Smith’s daughter does not speak to her children and they do not get on. Mr Smith decides to add these gifts into his current DIY Will to make sure his daughter is aware of his wishes. Mr Smith handwrites the amendments, and leaves it at that. 
Following Mr Smith’s death, his daughter is dealing with estate and obtains his original Will from his safe, realising it has been amended. As the changes do not comply with s9 Wills Act 1837 (because Mr Smith did not formalise the amendments properly through signature in the presence of two witnesses), a professional Will drafting solicitor advises Mr Smith’s daughter that the amendments are invalid and she does not need to make these gifts. Mr Smith’s grandchildren lose out on £100,000 each. 
How Important Is It To Get Your Last Will And Testament Drafted Properly? A Case Study: 
Mr and Mrs Thomson were described as a loving couple, who had previously agreed a pact whereby when their ‘normal’ lives were over, they wished to end their lives, rather than live with poor health. Mr Thomson had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and a grossly enlarged aorta which could rupture at any time. Mrs Thomson had advanced dementia, and is thought to have required a high level of assistance and care from her husband. 
In April 2015, Mr and Mrs Thomson were found deceased, with a note explaining the circumstances surrounding their deaths: Mr Thomson had killed Mrs Thomson, as per their pact, and then killed himself. Had Mr Thomson survived, he would have been charged with murder, as Mrs Thomson’s dementia was too far advanced to be able to consent to the assisted suicide. However, given that Mr Thomson was no longer alive, it was up to the Court to decide whether the charge that would have been brought would affect how their Wills were read. 
The combined value of Mr and Mrs Thomson’s Estate was said to be around £600,000. As Mrs Thomson died first, clause 3 of her Will took effect, and Mr Thomson would inherit her share of their assets. However, as Mr Thomson killed her, under the Forfeiture rule, he should not be entitled to inherit anything from her. 
Therefore, the substitute provisions of Mrs Thomson’s Will should have taken effect. Unfortunately, the provisions were worded in such a way that they would only take effect if Mr Thomson did not survive her, and therefore her Estate would pass under the Rules of Intestacy. This issue could have been avoided had the Thomson’s Wills been worded differently to allow for the substitute provisions to take effect if Mr Thomson predeceased and if the clause failed for any other reason, an issue which our team of Wills Solicitors in Lancaster ensure does not occur in Wills that we draft. 
The effect of the wording of the substitute provisions meant that, as the couple had no immediate family, their Estate would pass to their distant relatives in Australia. 
Fortunately, this case was less complicated as there was no differences in the Thomson’s Wills: Mr Thomson’s Will included the same substitute provisions as Mrs Thomson’s, namely gifts to charity and friends so, had the forfeiture rule not been in place, Mrs Thomson’s Estate would, ultimately, still pass to the same beneficiaries as it would under Mr Thomson’s Will. The Macmillan charity therefore applied to the Court for relief against the forfeiture rule, so that they could still inherit Mr and Mrs Thomson’s Estate, as intended by both parties. 
The Judge considered the circumstances surrounding Mr and Mrs Thomson’s relationship and the pact that they made together, and decided that relief should be applied in this case, to allow the provisions of Mrs Thomson’s Will to take effect (under Mr Thomson’s Estate and Will), especially as Mr Thomson himself was not receiving any financial benefit from his wife’s death (as he was also deceased). 
This meant that, even though the Will was not worded the way it would have been was it drafted by our expert Wills Solicitors in Lancaster, the Court allowed the Wills to stand, and therefore there was no difference to the beneficiaries who inherited under the Will and in reality. 
If you need advice in relation to ensuring that your Will is correctly worded to prevent the issues seen in the Macmillan case from occurring, contact our Wills Solicitors in Lancaster online, here, or email or contact our Private client and trust solicitors in Preston on 01772 783314, to discuss your Will drafting, and trust and probate requirements. 

Issues with signature of the Will: 

Another common question that our professional solicitors for wills come across, is whether a Will that is signed but not witnessed, or is only witnessed by one person, is valid. 
If a Will is not signed and witnessed correctly, it is not valid. Our team of solicitors for wills are unable to simply check a DIY Will has been signed correctly. To ensure it has been, a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the signature of the Will would be required, as well as verifying that the witnesses were present, etc. This is not a service that MG Legal offer and the fees for undertaking this work would likely exceed the cost of making a new Will, in any event. 

Mistakes in a DIY Will: 

You might think that your simply worded Will should be fine. However, one minor mistake with drafting or a lack of provision, and you could find that your loved ones are left picking up the pieces and facing costly legal procedures. There are certain legal provisions that are included in a Will and laws that apply to Wills, that you may not be aware of. For example, under s33 of the Wills Act, where a Will contains a gift to a child (or remoter descendant) of the testator – the person making the Will – and the intended beneficiary dies before receiving the gift, their child would be entitled to receive the gift. 
Let’s take the fictional Mr Smith. In his Will, he divides his residuary estate equally between his children, John and Jane. Jane dies before Mr Smith. Mr Smith doesn’t have any idea about s33 of the Wills Act. He presumes that the survivor of his children, John, would receive the whole of his estate so he doesn’t update his Will. However, due to the way Mr Smith has worded his Will, Jane’s children receive her share of the estate. Mr Smith isn’t close to his grandchildren and would not have wanted them to inherit. However, as he didn’t receive professional legal advice about his Will, he wasn’t aware of this provision in law and therefore his true wishes were not followed. 
Other common issues that occur with DIY Wills are ambiguities in the Wills, which mean that the executors appointed are unable to effectively distribute part or whole of the estate. Because the executors do not understand some of the provisions, and a legal professional is often unable to ascertain the intention of the deceased (if they had not taken Will instructions and drafted the deceased’s Will), an application to the Court will be required. The Court will decide the outcome for the beneficiaries, and the application itself can be costly, as legal guidance would usually be required to deal with the preparation of the application, required case law and representation at any hearings. The Court may require further evidence before reaching a decision and more than one hearing may be required, especially if there is any disagreement between the parties. 
For example, if a beneficiary believes that the deceased intended one thing but the executors believe there was another intention, the Court may need hearings and lots of evidence before reaching a decision. 
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