Almost two-thirds of people in England and Wales have not written a will, which leaves their estate exposed to the laws of intestacy. However, even those with a will are not always without problems, often caused by mistakes and misunderstandings.
Here we list the top ten mistakes people make when writing their will, so that you can avoid them and ensure your will accurately reflects your wishes.
1. DIY Wills and Will Kits
Despite many people not writing a will, for those that do a DIY will can seem like the best option and certainly the cheapest. Often found in places like WH Smiths and more recently on Groupon, they might seem like the easy choice. However, they do carry some risk and often result in being the most expensive choice.
One of the biggest mistakes with a DIY will is it’s meaning being misinterpreted, resulting in the wrong thing happening. Another potential pitfall, is it not being signed or witnessed correctly which results in it being invalid.
You can avoid mistakes like this when writing your will by using a professional will writer. The cost for this is relatively small in comparison to an expensive court case.
2. Poor storage
Another big mistake people make when writing their will is how they choose to store it.
One in ten people who have written a will have not told anyone where it is kept. If your will is unable to be found then you will be considered to have died intestate. You should always make sure someone knows where you keep your documents.
It is also important to consider where you choose to keep it. You should make sure that you store it somewhere it cannot be tampered with, stolen, damaged by fire or flood or lost. It might be worth storing it in a secure facility, which is usually very low cost for the level of security that it provides.
3. Not signing and witnessing
One of the common mistakes people make is not signing their documents or having it correctly witnessed. If your document is not signed, then it will not be valid. The same is true if it is signed but not witnessed. Choosing the wrong witness can also cause problems, particularly when the witness is closely related or named in the will.
A professional will writer will guide you towards choosing the correct witness, or better still provide the witnesses for you!
4. Failing to review and update
It can be a sigh of relief to write your will and once it is done you just want to put it in a drawer and forget about it. Whilst that is ok in the short term, a mistake people often make is not reviewing it and updating it when required.
Whilst on an annual basis, your personal circumstances might not change. But do you consider if the lives of your loved ones have remained the same? Marriage, divorce, births and deaths can all have an impact.
It is advisable to review your will every three to five years or when something in your family changes. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about it. Make sure your will always reflects your wishes.
5. Making incorrect assumptions
A mistake often made is people assuming that marriage and divorce have no effect on an existing will. Whilst your marriage will invalidate any previous wills – unless the will was written in view of the upcoming marriage – that is not always the case with a divorce.
Any changes in relationship status should result in reviewing your will and updating it where necessary.
6. Choosing the wrong executor
Your executor is responsible for ensuring your wishes are carried out. A big mistake people make is choosing someone who is not suitable for the job. Reasons for this can include being too far away or overseas or being unwilling to carry out duties.
To avoid this mistake, it is important to consult with your chosen executor and discuss this with them before appointing them in your will. A professional will writer would also recommend appointing a professional body as a substitute so that they can step in if your chosen executor is unable or unwilling to act.
7. Choosing the wrong trustee
If your will includes a trust you will need to choose the right trustee. A mistake sometimes made is choosing someone who is not able to carry out their duties. You should consider your chosen trustee’s abilities as they will be required to make important financial decisions.
8. Forgetting about “the small stuff”
Most people detail how they want their money and property to be divided but make the mistake of forgetting about the smaller items. Pieces of jewellery, photographs, collectors’ items and family heirlooms are the items that often cause the most family disputes.
Listing how you want these to be divided up can save your family a lot of arguments.
9. Thinking it’s “just a will”
One of the worst mistakes you can make is thinking it is just a will. Whilst a will takes care of your assets after death, what happens whilst you are alive but unwell? What if you suffer from an illness or injury such as dementia or brain injury?
Lasting powers of attorney are often forgotten about, and not considered to be of importance. But they play a vital role in protecting your assets and securing a future for your family. They allow you to appoint someone that you know and trust to manage your property, business, bank accounts, medical decisions etc. so you can ensure your wishes are carried out.
10. Forgetting about your funeral
Forgetting to discuss funeral wishes with loved ones is a mistake many people make. Partly because it is deemed morbid and unpleasant to talk about. Additionally, relatives can find it difficult to hear. However, alongside forgetting about the small stuff, differing opinions on funerals can be one of the biggest causes of family feuds.
Heated discussions about dress codes, songs and hymns can cause upset for families at the most difficult of times. If your family don’t want to discuss your funeral, makes sure you detail your wishes on paper. You could even consider a prepaid funeral plan, that not only takes the emotional strain from your family, but also the financial burden too.