The process of writing a will isn’t always the easiest to take on – it takes time, foresight, and a certain amount of emotional detachment to avoid getting brought down by the subject matter.
But writing a strong, valid will is always going to take a certain amount of time and effort. We need to think very carefully about all aspects of our lives, from the financial to the sentimental, in order to draw up a fitting plan for our loved ones’ futures.
But do we need to go as far as working with a solicitor to put all those ducks in a row? With the right guidance, can the average person write their own will without investing too much time or money into the process?
Can you write a valid will without a solicitor?
Technically, yes. A will doesn’t need to be overseen by a legal professional to be considered valid; you could write it on a single piece of paper or into a spare notebook if you wanted to.
But it’s important to remember that it’s all too easy to write an invalid will. While it’s possible for a will written on a piece of scrap paper to be considered valid and executed according to the testator’s final wishes, it is also quite rare.
A will is a legally binding document – and, like all legally binding documents, it needs to adhere to some fairly rigid requirements in order to pass muster with the courts. The average person doesn’t know how to ensure that what they’re doing is right, and the only way to confirm it is – you’ve guessed it – by working with an experienced solicitor.
What about will writing kits?
This is something of a middle ground between writing the will without any guidance at all and writing a will with expert guidance. Will writing kits, also known as DIY wills, act as a template. They also offer general instructions for ensuring the will is valid – for instance, that it has been properly witnessed.
But will dispute solicitors see so many DIY wills run aground when they are brought to light. These documents are often brought down by basic, clerical issues that render them invalid and leave the testators’ families in the lurch. Why? Because will writing is a specialised skill, and generalised guidance so often means that testators are not getting the insight they need in order to create something useable.
Even if the will is legally valid, there’s a chance that important assets or considerations will fall through the cracks. The past few years have seen the number of digital assets we have go up tremendously, and these are easily forgotten. Cryptocurrencies, online accounts, digital photo albums – so many important possessions that need to be accounted for.
If the door is left open for a family member to believe that the will has been forged, written under coercion or undue influence, or written when the testator did not have the mental capacity to sign a legal document, then the door is left open for long and arduous will dispute processes.
Again, the only way to avoid these issues entirely is to work with a solicitor from the outset. They can anticipate the issues that so many wills run into and ensure that what you sign your name to is what is carried out when you die.