Wills Solicitors Say Don’t Try This At Home!

If you want your hard-earned money to end up in the hands of those you love when you die, then you need to take the advice of expert Wills solicitors when you draw up your Will.

That’s the clear message from a man who has seen families torn apart by bitter wrangling in his role as one of the region’s leading probate lawyers.

Iain Atkinson, who is based at Macks Solicitors in Darlington, insists that DIY Wills are often a false economy, while getting it done properly by specialist Wills solicitors often costs little more than a tradesman’s call-out fee.

“It’s vital to get good advice and ensure your Will is drafted properly,” said Iain.

“If you don’t, what you want to happen to your estate when you die might not happen ­– it’s as simple as that. This can cause immense distress to those involved.

“The really absurd thing about it is it causes so little to have a Will done properly and it causes absolute mayhem if it goes wrong.

“When you’re talking about everything you’ve worked for all your life and taking care of your dependents and your family, it really is worth investing a modest fee to get it done properly.

“It’s often a one-off single payment to get it done right. It’s quite extraordinary that people try it themselves.  Having said this, even if a Will has been properly prepared (or there is no Will) what happens to your estate can still be challenged after your death.”

Iain spends much of his working life dealing with disputes involving Wills and claims against people’s estates.

“One of the problems I frequently experience is when people feel they haven’t been treated fairly when somebody has died, either because they are unhappy with the terms of the Will or with what the law decides happens to someone’s estate when they die without leaving one,” Iain said.

“There’s an increased awareness now that you can challenge Wills, or what happens when no Will is left. There was a time when most people would take the view that what a Will says can’t be challenged, and very often that’s not in fact the case.

“You can challenge it under the Inheritance Act, saying the Will hasn’t made reasonable financial provision for the individual who wants to challenge it. You can also challenge what happens to someone’s estate when there is no Will and the estate is being distributed under the intestacy rules.

“In either case, you have to show that the Will (or if there isn’t one, the effect of the intestacy rules), means that reasonable financial provision has not been made for one or more individuals. What’s reasonable depends on the individual circumstances. It can be a complex process.”

Iain believes just about everyone would benefit from drawing up a Will and making it clear what their intentions are should the worst happen to them.

He said: “Generally speaking if you die without a Will, what tends to happen is what many people would want to happen anyway but this is not always the case.  If you decide not to make a Will you need to check the situation if you are going to take that risk.

“We are living in an age when many people cohabit and have been together for a long time. They may have children from previous relationships and it just doesn’t follow now that what happens is what you’d want to happen, because of the way society is changing and because the Rules of Intestacy do no necessarily distribute your estate as you would want.

“People’s lives are more complicated and the Inheritance Act has recently been widened to recognise the way society is rapidly changing and increased the category of people who can bring claims.

“It’s something people don’t want to think about so they delay doing it, or they take the view that they’ll have a bash at it themselves or find some cheap way of doing it and I’ve never really understood that.”

And if a member of Iain’s own family or a friend asked his advice about making a DIY Will?

“I would say absolutely don’t do it! It’s a ridiculous false economy to try to save a few pounds when making a Will. The internet is often the starting point from where it can all go wrong.

“There are formalities that have to be complied with for the Will to be valid and that’s where a lot of the trickiness comes in. You’ve got to go through that process and be able to show it was properly followed.

“Yet it costs very little to have it done professionally by Wills solicitors and ensure, as best you can, that your family are looked after and that everything you’ve worked for all your life ends up where you want it to.”

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