online wills

Mental capacity row over will

 

An interesting case was reported last week, whereby a Leicester-based firm of solicitors was being sued for over £1 million by a woman who claims that it did not rewrite a will when it was requested, resulting in a substantial personal loss to her.

The deceased was a wealthy woman who wrote several wills throughout her lifetime, each time leaving the bulk of her £2.6 million estate to her cousin and former GP.

After her husband died and she moved into a nursing home however, her step- granddaughter claims that she wished to change her will a final time (several weeks before she died) to leave the majority of the estate to her.

According to her step-granddaughter, the law firm did not adhere to the deceased’s wishes and she was forced to prepare a will online for her grandmother, leaving it open to a contest of probate by the cousin and GP, which she lost and was forced to pay almost £1 million.

In response, the law firm stated that the solicitor concerned had received conflicting information about the mental capacity of the deceased’s mental health at the time and quite rightly, had insisted about speaking to her about it personally before agreeing to write a new will. Unfortunately, she died before she was able to do so.

The hearing continues in the High Court.

5 Myths about Making a Will Explained

Today marks the start of Will Aid month, so we’d thought we’d help raise awareness by explaining a few legal myths.
 
My spouse will get everything if I die
Your spouse or civil partner is only entitled to inherit your entire estate if there are no other living blood relatives. If you have children – your spouse will inherit the first £250,000 of your estate and retain life interest in half of anything that exceeds this, the remaining half will be divided between your children. If you don’t have any children your spouse inherits the first £450,000 and the same rules apply to parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. 
 
If I live with someone, they’re my ‘common law’ spouse so will be entitled to inherit my estate
Common law doesn’t exist when it comes to inheritance law. Partners who live together have no rights, cannot inherit and cannot act as personal representative. If you are not married and have children, your estate will be equally divided between them. The worst scenario is if you are still married to your ex-partner, he or she will inherit the first £250,000, the remainder will be split between your children. 
 
My children will automatically inherit my estate
Only if you are not married. This can leave children in a vulnerable position. For example, say you have children from a first marriage – your current spouse will inherit your entire estate, including chattels if valued at less than £250,000. Worse than this – if your spouse remarries, in the event of their deaths, the wealth could be passed to the family of your spouse’s new partner. 
 
You can change intestacy so what’s the point in making a will
Yes, you can change intestacy law with a document called a Deed of Variation. The problem with this is that to do so, everyone affected must agree. Plus, if beneficiaries are children under 18, they cannot legally give their consent and the Courts must give their approval, making it very costly.
 
Drawing up a will is really expensive
This is not the case. Many people have visions of a solicitor painstakingly drafting the document with a quill and ink, while the clock is ticking…thus costing hundreds of pounds. These days, you can quickly and easier make a will online. Of course, if your situation is complex and you have many assets this is not recommended so will inevitably cost more. See our pricing guide and find out the cost of making a will.

Can I use a will writing kit?

Online wills are only ever usually recommended for the simplest of estates. They are of course quick, relatively easy to prepare and perhaps most importantly in today’s struggling economic environment, cheaper than a professionally prepared Will.
 
Should you die without having a Will in place, your entire estate will be processed and distributed according to the English laws of intestacy, which can prove very stressful and upsetting, should some nasty surprises crop up.
 
It is then, very important that you prepare a Will of some sort. Online and DIY Wills are an alternative option but we have seen in recent years, an increasing number of contentious cases due to a mistake made by an individual as they prepared their own Will. 
 
As well as glaring errors causing undue stress upon loved ones left behind, rectifying the mistakes can prove considerably more cost than it would have taken to have the Will prepared professionally in the first place. Remember too that should you choose to write your Will yourself, you have not planned to minimise any Inheritance Tax due on your estate, which could place increased financial burden upon your family after you’re gone.

Seek Help with DIY or Online Wills

A lady wrote into a national newspaper recently saying that her husband had purchased a DIY Will from a newsagent.  When making a will, he left the family home to all five of his grandchildren once they reached the age of 25.

On the face of it, this seemed to be a fair and straightforward instruction.  However, as the legal advisor rightly pointed out, this would in fact mean that the Executors of the Will would then need to look after the interests of the home until the first grandchild reached 25.  This could mean that if the Executors decided to sell the home to make it a cash asset rather than a property inheritance, the gentleman’s wife may be forced to move out.

This is an excellent example of why, although buying cheap online wills or templates and writing it yourself may seem like a great idea, you should always seek legal advice when preparing it to ensure that you have avoided the numerous legal pitfalls and remembered to include everything.

Remember too that a professional Will writer should also be able, whilst preparing the document, to advise you on making decisions which will benefit your next of kin in the best way possible, including planning your Estate specifically to minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax which will fall due.

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