Only the very simplest of Wills should be drawn up without the aid of a solicitor or other professional adviser. One of the problems with homemade Wills is not only recognising whether your situation is really as straightforward as you think but also making sure that the Will fulfils all of the legal requirements. There are specific witnessing requirements for Wills and rules about who should or shouldn’t witness a Will. Another important factor that people often fail to recognise is that Wills made before marriage are automatically revoked by marriage unless specifically drafted in contemplation of marriage. Even the simplest of Wills will be held invalid if the legal requirements are not followed.

There is more to a Will than simply disposing of assets. For example, you will need to consider who will be executors and how money will be looked after if, for example, children are too young to inherit outright on your death. You may also need Inheritance Tax advice at the point of making a Will. Of course not everyone will have a big enough estate to have to worry about Inheritance Tax liabilities but owing to the increase in house prices in recent years, some people are slipping over the tax thresholds without necessarily being aware of this.

A valid Will is the only way to ensure that your possessions and assets pass to whom you want them to go to and if there are problems with the drafting formalities of the Will then your wishes may not be carried out. If it is found that your Will is incorrectly executed or does not dispose of all of your assets, the distribution of the estate or of the remaining assets is left to the operation of the Law. Many people think that their husband or wife will automatically inherit everything but this is a common misconception. The situation is even worse for unmarried couples and it doesn’t matter how long they have been together, an unmarried partner does not automatically have a right to the estate.

These are only some of the factors that you should bear in mind when preparing a Will and it is always sensible to seek professional assistance.

CAPTION: Donna Bothamley. Partner, Wills & Probate Team

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