DIY Wills and Dementia

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Royal London, the largest mutual insurer in the UK did a study in 2018 which revealed that 5.4 million adults in the UK don’t have a will and wouldn’t know where to begin. Failing to write one, or having an invalid will, can have devastating consequences for your family and is best avoided.

Most people get help from a local solicitor to assist with writing their will. The process is often quick, easy and highly affordable. However, if you are tempted to write one yourself by using a template bought from a stationery shop, then it pays to know a few risks before proceeding.

Risks associating with a DIY will

The Guardian once ran an article sharing the dangers of DIY wills which makes a thoughtful read, as it highlights many examples and the dire consequences. In this post, we highlight three prevalent issues with a DIY will:

  • You must be 18 or older and have the mental capacity to understand the effect of the document you’re making. This point is imperative as questions pertaining to your mental state at the time of creating your DIY will can see your family members challenge the validity of your will.
  • Your DIY will must be error free. If you spell a person’s name incorrectly, you aren’t clear in your description or if you forget to have it signed and witness, then your will can be proven invalid.
  • Your DIY will usually cannot accommodate when your circumstances change. For example, if you have a will in place but are going through a divorce and will re-marry soon, any will you have previously written will be revoked.

DIY will and dementia

With 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and each of them being affected in different ways, it is essential to get the legal affairs sorted following a diagnosis.

A person who has been diagnosed with dementia can still write their will, as long as they have ‘testamentary capacity’ – a legal term used to describe a person’s legal and mental ability to make or alter a will. This concept, also referred to as ‘sound, mind and memory’, is illustrated if the person can show that they understand the effect of their will.

To prevent any doubts or future complications, it’s best to get an independent medical opinion from a healthcare professional to substantiate that the person making the will has the mental capacity to do so. Also engage a solicitor to help with the process, as this is not a time to save some money by creating a DIY will but paying a higher price later.

What exactly is a will and should I employ a solicitor to help me make one?

A will is a legal document in which you can express how you want your estate (property, money and possessions) to be distributed after you have died. This document names an executor who will carry out your wishes, and it usually includes who will look after your children, and how your debts and taxes will be paid.

Given the gravity of a will and the consequences it will have on your family in the future, employing a dedicated specialist solicitor to ensure it’s undeniably correct is the best route to take. Our solicitors are experts in the process of drafting wills, certifying that your interests are adequately protected.

Without a will, there is no guarantee that your estate will go to the people or the causes that you had in mind. For example, if you and your partner aren’t married or in a civil partnership, your partner won’t have the right to inherit any of your assets. You can read more about “What happens if I don’t make a will” on this page.

How to make a will?

The legal process of making a will can be simplified with the help of an experienced solicitor. You need to be at least 18 years of age to make a valid legal will, and there are several steps involved which your solicitor can guide you through. When you start, it’s important to understand the value of your assets, before deciding how you want to divide and distribute them.

How can I ensure that my will is valid?

A valid will needs to:

  • Be in writing, signed by you and witnessed by two people.
  • Have been written by you while you had the mental capacity to make and understand the effect of it.
  • Be made by you voluntarily, and without any pressure or coercion from another person.

Common mistakes made on a will

Navigating the legal intricacies of making a will on your own is tricky, mainly when you’re not seeking professional advice. It’s essential for the language in your will to be clear and concise otherwise, the courts will have to interpret what your intentions were, or risk having your will proven as invalid.

The top five common mistakes include:

  • Incorrectly signed and witnessed: for your will to be legally binding, it must be witnessed by two people who are present at the time of the signing, are not named as beneficiaries in your will or are married to someone who is, and are UK citizens aged 18 years or over.
  • Out of date: any marriages, deaths or births in your family should prompt you to update your will.
  • Inappropriate executors: an executor is deemed inappropriate if they’re under 18, live overseas or don’t feel capable of accepting the responsibility.
  • Not making proper exclusions: if you want to exclude anyone who has a legal claim to your assets, you need to provide a letter with your will explaining your reasoning.
  • Forgotten assets: omitting or forgetting to mention an asset in your will means that it will be dealt with by the state.

Romain Coleman can help with will writing

At Romain Coleman, our wills and probate solicitors in London believe that making your will should be a straightforward and affordable process. We can advise and help you to structure your will so that it remains valid and protects your family’s future.

With the guidance of a qualified solicitor, those who have dementia will also have a voice through a professionally written will, which can’t be questioned down the line.

To find out more about our will writing service, contact our experienced team of solicitors on 0208 520 4555 or via our Contact Form.

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This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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