Simple online Wills surge due to Covid-19 – are they risky?

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Is filling out a form online a good alternative to the traditional way of drafting a Will? We asked Lucy Mignot, Senior Associate and specialist in probate and trust disputes for her views.

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The use of online Wills has surged in the last year, but online Wills rarely cover all situations, leaving individuals and estates vulnerable to future claims, says Lucy Mignot: “DIY Wills are a false economy; testators may save money initially, but their estate could be eaten up after death by litigation, or an unnecessary tax bill. With DIY Wills it is very easy to get the formalities wrong and end up with an invalid Will. This means the estate passes according to the previous Will, or the intestacy rules, potentially passing to different beneficiaries to those intended, or even to the state. Errors in a Will cannot be easily rectified – if at all.

Another issue with DIY Wills is that, often, testators don’t consider what they want to happen if their intended beneficiaries predecease them. Again, this can lead to a result contrary to that intended. Ambiguity in a Will is a real problem in a DIY Will. Where a term is ambiguous, this may have to be resolved by an expensive court application.

Doing the work

As someone who handles disputed Wills, I cannot stress enough the benefit of a file of papers relating to the preparation of a Will. These can provide evidence needed to avoid claims based on lack of capacity, undue influence etc. They often also record the reasoning behind a testator’s decisions. That can be enough to prevent a dispute.

In many cases involving homemade Wills, testators have thought about what it is they want to achieve but sadly lacked the technical legal knowledge to put their wishes into place effectively. This can result in significant costs being paid from the estate and a lot of stress for the family, even where there is no dispute between the family members.”

For contentious matters relating to Wills, Lucy Mignot can be contacted on lucy.mignot@blanchardsbailey.co.uk or 01305 217303.

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