Making a Will is one of those jobs that everyone thinks about during their lifetime. For most this is a passing consideration, when they get married or have children but not something that is high on the “to do” list.
Many people finally make a Will when they get older. This will then hopefully mean that on their death their affairs will be dealt with in accordance with their wishes without contentious issues arising.
However a situation that commonly arises is that it is not until death becomes imminent that making a Will becomes a high priority for people. As solicitors we often prepare emergency Wills for people who have a terminal prognosis or a limited life expectancy. Although this means a Will is then in place at the time of death the thought process is rushed and we rarely have the opportunity to discuss the client’s circumstances in detail to advise them on the best way to deal with their affairs. Despite all best efforts, it becomes a very stressful and traumatic experience for the person making the Will who feels rushed at a time when they are already unwell, and then often remain concerned about whether they have ‘done the right thing’.
Where a solicitor is used however, full consideration is given to legal issues and a valid Will is prepared. However when there is insufficient time to instruct a solicitor often people turn to making a homemade Will. Unfortunately this then means there is a greater chance of the Will not being validly prepared which causes potentially costly delays to resolve after death.
A common problem with homemade Wills is that it is not validly executed or completed properly. The rules relating to valid execution of a Will are very onerous. If there is any question after death about the validly of the Will this results in further evidence having to be obtained at additional cost, and of course delay, to the estate.
This unfortunate situation can have an even greater impact on the deceased’s estate when there are ongoing issues such as a house sale or a compensation claim being pursued. Such delays can lead to the potential loss of a buyer, prejudice in a claim or at the least considerably delays. In some cases the Will may be completely invalid.
With court and statutory imposed deadlines such delays have the potential to jeopardise the claim or house sale, which is often to the detriment of the grieving family, as well as adding to the stress at an already difficult time.
This may of course seem like an extreme example of a problem that may arise, but none of us can predict what will happen in our future, and none of us want to leave our loved ones with costly issues to resolve as a result of our death. Therefore moving the making your Will by a suitably qualified professional up your “to do” list now may seem like a sensible thing to do.