The dangers of diy wills - what you need to know

15 July 2018

98,500 people chose to execute the wills of their deceased relatives via a ‘Do-It-Yourself probate’ last year, up from 86,600 in 2012, despite the risk of making mistakes which could lead to family members suing them. In addition to that, 38% of people executed wills on their own last year, even though this left them exposed to being sued. 

The growing use of ‘DIY probate’ is seen as partly to blame for the 35% increase in the number of disputes related to wills and probate heard in the High Court to 661 last year, up from 490 in 2012.

People are more likely to make mistakes when executing a will without professional help, which could lead to a family member suing them. Wills may also result in a legal dispute if someone does not think they have been left what they were promised – these disputes may be easier to defend if the process has been followed properly by a solicitor. 

A probate allows a person to carry out a relative’s will when they die and divide up any assets. It gives legal access to that person’s property, bank accounts and possessions.

Moreover, there are various problems that could arise when executing a will without professional help which could result in legal disputes amongst family members: 

  • Failure to properly follow the terms of a will could leave the executor vulnerable to a legal claim if a family member did not receive what they were entitled to 
  • If a will lacks provisions for a dependant of the deceased relative, or someone feels a promise has been made to them in the testator’s lifetime which is not reflected in the will, a claim could be made against the estate which will involve the executor. Having professionals involved from early on can help deflect such claims and greatly increase the chances of mounting a successful defence where they do proceed.
  • Underpayment of Inheritance Tax on the estate may lead to an HMRC investigation and even penalties, which the executor of the will may be liable to pay 

Alison Morris, partner in the Probate & Estate Administration team, says: “It is understandable that people want to handle probate themselves to save some money but this can lead to major problems as the increase in legal disputes shows.”

“Litigation involving wills and probate is on an upward trend and this is tracking closely with increasing numbers of people who opt for DIY probates. The best way to avoid being drawn into costly legal disputes is to seek professional help from the outset.”

“Solicitors can help ensure that executors meet all of their obligations and do not do anything that could expose them to a claim. Having a solicitor engaged can help to manage beneficiaries’ expectations on the timescales involved, thereby avoiding a potential source of family conflict.”

Proportion of people carrying out ‘DIY Probates’ is increasing despite the risks

If you are experiencing difficulties executing a will or need further information, please do not hesitate to contact us, we will be happy to help.

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