The road to a creating a valid will can be full of potholes. The implications and costs of doing your own will online can be disastrous, at a fraught and emotional time. Using a solicitor to create your will ensures peace of mind that your estate will be accurately dealt with.
Undoubtedly, creating a valid will is important for two key factors. Amongst providing financial security, a valid will is important to protect your estate and reduce the inheritance tax passed on to your loved ones. However, doing your own will online should come with caution, if things go wrong it could mean your wishes won’t be actioned.
Is Doing Your Own Will Online Legal?
Yes, as long as you are over the age of 18 and in ‘sound mind’, doing your own will online is legal in England and Wales under the Wills Act 1837. To make the will legally binding, it must be signed in your presence by two witnesses. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the process would include meeting your witnesses in person for a will to be valid. However, since 31st January 2020, under social distancing and shielding measures, you can have your wills witnessed via a video call; making creating a valid will a completely online process.
Online Wills Pros and Cons
The Benefits of Doing Your Own Will Online
- Convenience and availability
One of the main benefits of online wills is the availability of free online resources and templates available to you. During the current pandemic, you can conveniently take your time to create your own will without having to leave your own home. However, we recommend approaching these free template websites with caution due to privacy reasons.
Depending on how complex your will is, you can create your own online will in any timeframe you wish, for example, you could create your will in less than an hour if you wish. Nevertheless, the more thought and care taken into the will writing processes, the better.
In regards to online wills pros and cons, if you are on a tight budget, an online will is a viable option. However, be vigilant with these kits as it can be difficult to create a valid will online that covers every possibility.
If your will is exceptionally straightforward, then doing your own will online should be a simple process. Although, your will may seem simple on paper until it extends past your spouse and children. Creating a valid will is very challenging without the right legal aid. Elements that may seem obvious, such as correct grammar and using the same coloured ink, can often be overlooked and comes with devastating effects.
The Risks of Doing Your Own Will Online
- Correct execution
There are strict legal formalities to follow for a will to be valid. For instance, you cannot have a beneficiary, a beneficiary’s spouse or a relative witness your will. Our solicitors have seen wills where a beneficiary’s gift failed because a joint property wasn’t considered and even occasions where the testator (the person making the will) had not signed it.
- Unintended tax consequences
Badly drafted wills can result in double taxation for inheritance tax or loss of available reliefs for your loved ones.
- Care home fees
For many people, their only or main asset is their house. A jointly owned house would pass automatically to the surviving joint owner, and there is nothing that can then be done to safe-guard at this stage. But what happens if the surviving joint owner has to go into a care home? The risk of doing your own will online is that it doesn’t cater for unexpected circumstances, such as if your home needs to be sold to cover annual care home fees.
- Second marriages and more complex family arrangements
Some people wrongly believe that when a couple makes wills simultaneously, the survivor has to follow what is in the will; this isn’t true. The survivor could change their will after the first death and disinherit children of the first to die. Or, they could re-marry and even unintentionally disinherit the first’s beneficiaries. Seeking legal advice ensures measures can be put in place to prevent these situations from arising.
- Failed gifts due to changes in assets
Many home-made wills gift specific assets that could result in unintended consequences. For instance, leaving a gift of a house to somebody and then not owning one when they die. If the house was the main asset, then the distribution of the estate amongst beneficiaries could be considerably changed if it wasn’t in the estate upon death.
- Beneficiaries dying before you
A major con with online wills is they don’t consider what might happen if the intended beneficiary died before them. If people died in an order that wasn’t expected, then you could end up with an intestacy and unintended family members benefitting from your assets.
Using a Solicitor to Write Your Will
Although when comparing the pros and cons of online wills, the benefits of saving time and costs may look appealing, it isn’t easy to create a valid will which covers every circumstance to ensure your loved ones are taken care of. Be mindful with doing your own will online as any mistakes made can result in your will not being protected, regulated, or implemented as you wish.
For example, it’s extremely important to take legal advice from a solicitor when you have an unmarried partner. There is no such thing in law as a common-law spouse for unmarried partners. Therefore, unmarried partners do not receive the special inheritance tax treatment that spouses do. Sometimes if the house is the main asset in your will, your common-law spouse will find themselves in a very difficult position when there is a tax bill for the house passing to the survivor, but not enough cash to pay it!
As shown, the risks and unintended consequences of doing your own will online greatly outweigh the benefits. Using a solicitor to write your will ensures that:
- The pressure and stress is taken off of you
- The correct language and grammar is used
- There will be no mistakes or common errors made
- And most importantly, your wishes will be accurately actioned