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Ackroyd Legal

Can I Write My Own Will?

The straightforward answer to this question is yes, you can write your own Will in England and Wales. 

It is not necessary for a solicitor to draft a Will, or witness it. However, this may result in you inadvertently creating a Will that is not legally valid or enforceable, especially if your circumstances are complicated. 

In order for you to decide whether it is appropriate for you to write your own Will, this post will go through your options. 

Is a Handwritten Will Legal In The UK? 

A handwritten Will, also known as a “DIY Will” is legal in the UK, provided it is drafted in such a way that makes it a legally valid Will. 

However, opting for a handwritten Will is not without its risks, because such Wills are more likely to be challenged. This could lead to a declaration of invalidity upon the death of its creator (also known as the testator).

Both the Wills Act 1837, and case law have established that a Will first and foremost, must reflect the true intentions of the testator and that their wishes are clearly and unambiguously expressed. 

Therefore, to avoid a Will being contested, it is important that it is drafted in a specific way, be witnessed by two people, and signed by the Will maker.

What Makes a Valid Will?

In order to create a legally valid Will, the testator must have the mental capacity to do so. That is, you must be at least eighteen years of age, and of sound mind so that you understand the fact that you are making a Will, and its contents. It is also crucial that you make the Will voluntarily, free of any external pressures. 

With regard to the actual process of making the Will itself, for it to be valid, the entirety of its contents must be in writing. 

Then, it must be signed by you as the testator, in the presence of two other witnesses. Subsequently, the two witnesses must also sign the Will in your presence. Although it is not legally required, it is advisable to include the date of execution as well. 

Who Should Witness a Will?

A witness must be over eighteen years old, and should not be related to the testator, or benefit from the Will, in order to ensure impartiality. 

If a beneficiary is made a witness, the beneficiary would forfeit his/her gift under the Will.

However, an executor, who will distribute your estate upon your death can be made a witness, provided they are not also a beneficiary.

What Should Be Included In a Will? 

When writing a Will, you should include details about what will happen to all of your assets, including any property, money, or other possessions. 

You will also need to include details of people you want to benefit from your Will (the beneficiaries of your estate). You should clearly state what each beneficiary will be entitled to upon your death, and what would happen if a beneficiary were to die before you. 

Further, make absolutely certain that you make provision for any dependants, such as children under the age of eighteen years who cannot care for themselves. 

Finally, decide upon a person to be the executor of your Will. This is someone who will be responsible for distributing your assets, settling debts and liabilities, and sorting out taxes such as Inheritance Tax.

When Can a Will Be Contested?

A Will can be contested in the following circumstances:

  • When the Will maker lacks capacity
  • When there is undue influence or coercion
  • When the Will maker has a lack of knowledge and approval
  • Under the Wills Act 1837 if a Will is not written in a valid way
  • If there is forgery and fraud

 

As such, it is important that there is no doubt about the validity of your Will if you are making it yourself without the help of a solicitor. 

When Should You Use a Solicitor To Write a Will?

You may think that it would be easier and less costly to draft a Will yourself, however, depending on your situation, it may be best to instruct a solicitor. 

If you write your own Will, you may not be aware of what is legally required to make a valid and legally binding Will. 

The consequences of not making your Will properly and legally are that it could easily be contested by those not mentioned in the Will who wish to benefit from it. This could cause stress for your loved ones and could result in lengthy and costly legal procedures.  

It is advisable to use a solicitor when drafting a Will in cases where your situation is complex, you have a number of assets, or where you think your Will may be contested after your death.

Solicitors have specialised legal knowledge to avoid the common pitfalls that can occur. A solicitor would be particularly helpful when the estate is sizeable and likely to give rise to disagreements between family members and loved ones. This is more likely to occur when there are dependants, multiple marriages, divorces, civil partnerships involved. 

Matters are further complicated when you have a business, your permanent home is not in the UK, or you have property abroad.

Having a solicitor draft your Will will give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have made a legally valid and enforceable Will.

At Ackroyd Legal, no matter the situation, we have the skills and expertise to help you reach a favourable solution. If you would like further information on how we can help you, please do not hesitate to contact us today on 020 3058 3363 or email enquiries.sa@ackroydlegal.com