Simple online Wills surge due to Covid-19 – are they risky?

It is generally accepted that it is important to update your Will when you create/expand a business, marry, start a family and so on. But how important is it really, to have your Will prepared by a specialist lawyer? Is filling out a form online a good alternative to the traditional way of drafting a Will? Fuelled by the pandemic, the use of online Wills has surged in the past year, but research indicates that online Wills rarely cover all situations which can leave individuals or their estates open to future claims. It also raises the issue of mental capacity and how consumers can check a particular “online Will” is suitable for their needs without specialist knowledge/advice? Read more here.

We asked Lucy Mignot, Senior Associate and specialist in contentious probate and trust disputes for her views:-

“DIY Wills are a false economy; the testator may save money in the short term, but their estate could be eaten up after death by the costs of litigation, or an unnecessary tax bill. The problem with DIY Wills is that it is very easy to get the formalities of signing/witnessing wrong and end up with an invalid Will. An invalid Will mean the estate passes according to the previous Will, or the intestacy rules, so potentially passing to entirely different beneficiaries to those the testator intended to benefit, or even to the state. Errors in a Will cannot be easily rectified if they can at all.

Another issue with DIY Wills is that, often, the testators don't consider what they want to happen if their intended beneficiaries predecease them. Again, this can lead to a result contrary to what the testator intended.

Ambiguity in a Will is a real problem and all the more likely in a DIY Will. Where a term is ambiguous, this may have to be resolved by an expensive court application.

Speaking as someone who handles matters relating to disputed Wills, I cannot underestimate the benefit of a file of papers relating to the preparation of a Will. Will files can provide the evidence needed to avoid claims based on alleged lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence etc. They often also record the reasoning behind a testator's decisions. That can, itself, be enough to prevent a dispute.

In cases involving homemade Wills that I have dealt with, the testator has thought long and hard about what it is they want to achieve but sadly they lacked the technical legal knowledge to put their wishes into place effectively. This has resulted in significant costs being paid from the estate and a lot of stress for the family, even where there is no dispute between the family members.”

If you would like to speak with our private client department about creating a new Will or updating a current Will, please contact Jerome Dodge, head of Blanchards Bailey’s private client department, on 01258 459 361. For contentious matters relating to Wills, Lucy Mignot can be contacted on or 01305 217303. 

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