17 August 2023

Should I make my will with a solicitor?

By James Palmer, Associate Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

There have long been discussions as to why you might make a will with a Solicitor. Particularly compared to the cheaper homemade option. The subject has hit the news again recently, with Aretha Franklin’s handwritten wishes being found in her sofa.

As with the estate of the Queen of Soul, homemade Wills can often result in issues and costly legal proceedings. Such important legal documents benefit from professional advice.

When I prepare a will for a client, my primary aim is to ensure clarity. That may be clearly stating who will oversee the administration of your estate, or how your assets shall be distributed. Homemade wills often lack such clarity. Which can cause time-consuming and costly complications, or the document being invalid.

A phrase I often hear when I discuss wills with clients is “Oh, I never thought of that”. That may relate to what might happen with the balance of their estate, once they set out specific items they wish people to receive. Alternatively, it could be in relation to what happens if their chosen beneficiaries die before them.

By making your will with a legal professional, you put yourself in a better position of ensuring the whole of your estate is dealt with as per your wishes. Further, it allows you to explore and consider the scenarios you may not have thought of, with advice tailored to your specific circumstances, including the size of your estate relating to Inheritance Tax where relevant.

Another common issue with a homemade will is that they have not been executed correctly. If a will is not executed properly, the wishes contained in it will be invalid and not legally binding. This could result in a previous will coming into effect, or passing in accordance with the intestacy rules if there was not a previous valid will. This can often lead to estates not passing to the intended beneficiaries. Further, there can be complications as to who is entitled to administer the estate in such a scenario.

Issues can also arise with homemade wills relating to capacity to execute the document or, indeed, undue influence. If such issues were raised, it can often result in costly legal proceedings and significant delays. When making a will with a legal professional, we owe a duty to all our clients to ensure they have the requisite capacity to put a will in place, and that we are receiving their true wishes.

As shown in the Aretha Franklin case, issues can also arise as to where a will might be kept. When we make a will, we store the document in our secure strongroom free of charge. Ensuring your will is safe and secure, and not at risk of being lost around the back of the sofa.

A will is one of the most important legal documents an individual can make. Each person will have valuable wishes as to who they want their assets to pass to. Whether it is their home, money in the bank, or any cherished belongings. They must also appoint someone they trust the most, to carry out those wishes. Such an important document warrants being prepared by an experienced professional who you can trust to ensure your wishes are carried out accurately and unequivocally, reducing the risk of a dispute in future.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.