Your Will is essentially the instruction manual you leave behind for the distribution of everything you have amassed over your lifetime. It could not be more important to ensure this is done properly, and yet some people don't bother at all, whilst others cut corners in what is a legally complex field.
A "homemade" Will, or one prepared by an unqualified person, might at first seem like an attractive, cost-saving option. This "DIY" approach however can leave executors and beneficiaries with the unenviable task of dealing with a litigated dispute over the deceased's estate, often a loved one for whom they are grieving, which only makes things much worse.
The legal issues surrounding contentious probate are complex, sophisticated and quite often difficult to grasp without a legal background.
Statistics reveal that in 2018 there was a rise in family members arguing over relatives' estates in the High Court. It has been suggested that inexpertly prepared Wills have contributed to this increase.
Making a Will might seem straightforward on the face of it. However many people who instruct a solicitor to prepare their Will, that is to say a professional specialising in Wills, Trusts and Probate work, find out quickly there are many aspects to Will preparation they had not thought about beforehand, and therefore would not have been able to address themselves.
At Fosters, Chris Fielding, head of the Dispute Resolution team, specialises in contentious probate. He identifies problems on a routine basis when it comes to non-professionally prepared Wills: "We often advise executors and beneficiaries dealing with problematic, non-professional Wills penned by testators themselves, their friends or family members, or sometimes Will-writing companies that simply lack the same level of expertise you find in our Wills, Trusts and Probate team populated with specialist lawyers. The costs of advice once it goes wrong are usually much more than the cost of preparing a decent Will in the first place.
"It's devastating for family members and loved ones who find themselves in the middle of a costly dispute that could have been easily avoided had the deceased instructed a specialist in a law firm. If you take the example of someone buying or selling a house, it's unthinkable that person would do it alone without a specialist lawyer on board, so it seems short sighted a person wouldn't seek the same level of expertise when making a Will, especially as the effect is often to transfer property upon death.
"At Fosters, when it comes to settling disputes over estates, whilst we focus on resolution without the need to resort to litigation, that is not always possible. If everyone made the decision to employ a solicitor to draft their Will, we would see far less conflict in this area."
The cost of preparing a Will through one of our qualified professionals is possibly less than you imagine and inevitably worth every penny if it brings you peace of mind.
If you do not have a Will, or you have not reviewed yours for some time, you should contact us on 01603 620508 and ask to speak to the Wills, Trusts and Probate department to discuss your needs. Alternatively, you can email us, or drop into one of our offices in Norwich, Lowestoft or Wymondham, to discuss making an appointment.