The Dangers of DIY Wills
15th November 2021
The importance of making a will is difficult to overstate. Any time you’re dealing with complicated issues around money and the law, you need expertise to stay safe. As the years tick by, it’s only natural to start thinking about what you’ll leave behind – and whose grubby hands you’ll be leaving it in. A will can help you make sure the people you care about are protected and provided for, but only if you make it properly. Dodgy DIY wills, on the other hand, can cause a huge amount of trouble, stress and hardship.
If you want a clear example of the importance of making a will the right way, look no further than the Inheritance Tax laws. When your assets are divided after your death, they’ll generally count as taxable income to the people who inherit it. The value of those assets will be calculated as of the time you died, so it’s definitely worth updating your will over time as their value changes. There’s a threshold (currently £325,000) below which the taxman doesn’t get a bite of the inheritance, but it’s always best to be sure you know what everything’s worth and make adjustments to your will as necessary.
One of the major problems with DIY wills is that they can leave a lot of scope for squabbling and uncertainty. Unless you’re a serious legal expert, simply making a list of what you’ve got and who’ll get it won’t do much when people start arguing. Technically, a homemade – or even handwritten – will has some legal weight behind it. However, it can be hard to establish one as valid if the potential beneficiaries start challenging the finer details. Homemade wills are often vague, ambiguous or simply out of date. You can’t leave your home to your child if you’ve already sold it, for instance. Did you intend to leave your new house to them instead? Uncertainties like that can quickly become a legal nightmare.
A lot of people have very specific ideas about who should inherit their money and possessions. The problem is, without specialised expertise, it’s all too easy to make a will that’s completely invalid. A professionally produced, properly witnessed will can protect your assets by representing a clear and thorough accounting of your intentions. For instance, you’ll be able to specify critical details like what happens if a beneficiary dies before your will takes effect, or to eliminate confusion when you’ve got several similar assets to distribute. As an example of things that can easily go wrong, poorly written wills can often result in people being forced to sell the homes they’ve just inherited – even if they’re actually living in them!
Your own funeral probably isn’t a lot of fun to think about. After all, it’s like arranging a party that everyone except you gets to go to. However, lumping funeral costs onto grieving family members is something most people would like to avoid. That’s why setting out the arrangements, and the financial provision for them, in a will is a great move. The trouble is, it’s a step that people often neglect when they’re going the DIY route. A professionally written will should always make sure that those final expenses are handled.
Making a will is about a lot more than dividing your cash and property among the people you leave behind. If your kids are still under 18 when you die, you’ll probably still want some say in how they’re looked after – and by whom. Without laying those details out in a professionally produced will, you’re risking losing your say in who takes care of your kids. Again, though, this is the kind of thing that a lot of DIY will-makers miss, meaning decisions about their kids’ guardians are taken out of their hands altogether.
At RIFT, we always talk about the importance of getting expert, specialist help when you’re making key financial decisions. While it might save a little cash to do it all yourself, the results will only ever be as good as the expertise you put into them. That’s as true in will writing as it is in any other critical money matters – and at RIFT, expertise is something we take extremely seriously.
Talk to a wills professional to make sure your assets and loved ones are protected. For everything else to do with tax and refunds, talk to RIFT.