Fast games

The risks of writing your own will

While researching for this article, Anne Forrester, Chief Legal Officer at Jackson Lees, came across a rather unusual will. Here she shares her thoughts on why the poet Lord William Ruffell Esq got his views on lawyers wrong.

The first part of Lord William Ruffell Esq’s will of 1803 reads:-

“I make it my last wish, because I think it’s high time; It conveys everything I wish, though it is written in rhyme; To employ a lawyer, I was never inclined; They are pests for society, sharks of humanity. To avoid this basic tribe, I will now draw my own will; Can I ever escape their paw…”

Generally speaking, this is not a sentiment we recommend, especially since writing your own will is fraught with potential disasters. The reality is that your wishes may not be recorded in a way that can be tracked by people trying to take care of your business after you die.

Some of the most common mistakes we encounter when family members present us with a homemade will (whether using one of the commercially available packs or simply written on the back of an envelope) are:-

  • Forgetting to name executors

The people who would then administer your estate might not be the ones you would have chosen.

  • Naming inappropriate executors

I have seen appointees who could not or would not take on the administration of the estate.

  • Not appointing guardians for children

This can lead to family breakdown if several family members feel they should be guardians of the children or, alternatively, if no family member wants to take the children.

  • Gifts given to several people

A will may state “I leave everything to Ben Turner” and then provide various gifts to other family members, friends and/or charities. The reality is that a will written like this would mean everything has already been given to Ben.

  • Only leave gifts for specific people

This is called a “partial intestacy”. A few common mistakes of this type are leaving the house or bank accounts only to specific people and forgetting that there are always other assets, so the residue of an estate must also be taken. into account.

This error can be overcome if everything else is in order, but it makes administration of the estate more complicated – and therefore more expensive as well.

If the will is not signed, we cannot use it at all.

If the executor’s signature has not been witnessed by two independent adults, the will is not valid. Witnesses must be people who are not named in the will nor the spouse or civil partner of anyone named in the will – in which case the rest of the will would be valid (provided everything else is in order ), but the person named in the will Will would not receive their gift.

  • Random handwritten notes or changes made to the will after it has been signed and witnessed.

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list and I do not know the contents of Lord William Russell Esq’s will, so I cannot say whether his will was validly signed and witnessed, whether his executors were proper, the gifts and residues all accurately recorded making his estate easy to administer for his executors – what I can tell you is that he was a lawyer himself!

I would always recommend taking the word of an attorney or solicitor when it comes to writing your will, and my team and I are on hand to help you figure out where you stand.

If you would like to speak to one of our empathetic specialist advisers, you can call us free of charge on 0808 302 3464 (free call also from a mobile) or by e-mail [email protected] Alternately, visit our website www.jacksonlees.co.uk

A flexible service

At Jackson Lees, we understand that one of the most important things we can do is plan our own future to ensure that we protect the future of those we love after we are gone. We will provide you with expert, professional and sensitive legal advice, helping you deal with a wide range of issues including; drafting your will, managing estates, estate tax planning, creating and administering trusts, and drafting a continuing power of attorney.

What Jackson Lees can do for you…

  • We offer free half-hour appointments for anyone who wants to learn more about our services
  • Three local offices to choose from:
    • Hoylake 0151 909 3204,
    • Heswall 0151 909 3201,
    • Liverpool 0151 909 3147
  • We also offer assistance if you are in an estate dispute.
  • We offer free secure storage of any Will
  • We can register your Will on Certainty’s National Wills Database

Let Jackson Lees make things a little easier for you and your family. Contact our Wills, Trusts and Probate team to schedule an appointment or to discuss your needs. Call us free from a mobile or landline on 0808 302 3464.


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