Making a homemade will is a little like DIY, says Karen Walsh.
We all have a little knowledge on how to go about it, but we never really get it completely right, do we?
More than ever before, people have accumulated significant assets over their lifetime, which means it is more important than ever to make sure you make a valid will.
It is critical that your will is property drafted and executed.
It could be tempting to rely on a homemade will, which can seem less expensive at the time.
In my opinion, it is a false economy.
If a will is not valid and not drafted property, it can have catastrophic consequences — and more often than not, is not even worth the paper it is written on and carries no weight.
For the relatively small sum of employing a solicitor to draft your will, why would you put your loved ones at risk of having to battle through the courts for years over your estate?
Sorting out misunderstandings and disputes may result in considerable legal costs, which will reduce the amount of money in the estate.
If a will is not valid, or badly drafted, it can lead to disputes and bad feeling, and an estate becomes much for difficult and lengthy to administer.
If a will is invalid, the person who made a will will be deemed to have died intestate — that is, they died without a will.
It is a lot cheaper to have a will made properly at the start.
There is no substitute for a skilled person, trained in the fine art of their trade, doing it for you.
Careful will drafting can also have a significant impact on the level of inheritance tax which will be paid.
It provides an opportunity to assess the position and consider what steps can be taken to minimise the inheritance tax liability.
The small cost of making a will can represent excellent value when compared to the tax savings that can be made. A solicitor can offer advice in relation to tax consequences of the will.
Nobody wants to contemplate their own death, but in truth, if you do not make a valid will, your possessions and assets may end up being passed on in a way that does not have your approval.
You may have promised a close family member or a friend everything you own, since that person was close to you for years, but if you don’t create a will that stipulates this very clearly, they may not get a cent.
There are many mistakes you can make if you leave a homemade will, including failing to sign and witness the document correctly, omitting the date, forgetting to include all of your assets, and not amending it correctly if changes are made.
Are there any circumstances where homemade wills are suitable?
No. Solicitors are trained to look at the whole picture and your particular circumstances and the potential outcomes in the future, that you are not necessarily thinking about. Your solicitor will raise issues that you have not considered. and can discuss options available to you.
Those preparing a homemade will not benefit from that expertise, and therefore will not necessarily spot all the issues.
And your estate is not going to be eaten up in legal fees because something has been drafted incorrectly.
A homemade will are not worth the risk.
To take a quote from Winston Churchill, if a will has not been properly drawn up, the understanding of it can be “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”.
And any misunderstanding, disagreement or invalidity can cost a significant amount of money, which will deplete the assets in the estate.
The simple answer is to get a solicitor to draw up the will.
See walshandpartners.ie/blog for more!