9 Common Mistakes When Writing a Will

Posted: 18/10/2018

A will is formal legal document which lets you choose what will happen to all your possessions and valuable assets when you die. It can give the individual a lot of control and say over who they give their money, estate and belongings to, but at the end of the day, it is a very formal legal contract and there are a lot of common mistakes you can make.

Of course, you won’t be around forever (nobody will be), but preparing a will incorrectly can have unfortunate ramifications on your loved ones and who you pass on your assets to. Specifically, it can impact those that did not receive anything or only part of something – whether it is the individual’s property, money or car. When this can be worth a life-changing amount of money, it has the potential to create tension and pull families apart.

Perfect Funeral Plans highlights some of the most common mistakes made when putting together a will.

1. Will is not written in the correct way

As mentioned, a will is a legal document that has a certain way of being written and presented that it holds up in court. Anything too vague or not specific enough can be questioned and open for debate.

Whilst writing a will by yourself is free and easy, a professional will writing company will ask questions and make considerations that you never thought about and will also help with the description of these to ensure that can be transitioned smoothly when you pass.

Examples of this include gifts to family members or friends, but a specific description may need to be required. In addition, if you are giving your property to your children, is this the mortgage too? Will they be left with debt or receiving something valuable? Leaving things too ambiguous can leave it to the court to decide and this may not be what you intended.

With this in mind, it is also important to be wary of DIY will builders online, since they may provide a structure and format, but not necessarily tick all the legal boxes.

2. Making changes to your will

Once a will is written, it is written. This is not like a word document on your laptop that you can just amend and use your initials to sign it. To update a will, you will need an official change to it known as a codicil.

A codicil or change to your will must be signed and witnessed in the same way as the original will, with the same witnesses as before.

If you have a lot of changes because you have re-married, made a lot of new purchases or have had more children, you could look at getting a new will altogether – and this is not surprising given how much our lives can change over the course of a decade.

3. Don’t forget your invisible, but valuable assets

Sure, we always think about leaving our home, cars and jewellery but in this online age, we also have a lot more intangible assets online, known as your digital legacy.

You will have online assets such as credit cards, air miles, nectar points, bonds, shares, even cryptocurrencies, that are still valuable and can be passed onto your loved ones who can get good use out of them. In fact, there have been several cases of deceased people who invested in online ventures and completely forgot about them, only finding out that they were worth huge amounts later on.

A similar request in a will can be to delete any online assets or subscriptions which over time would continue to take money and fees away from the deceased person and their inheritance. Think about video game, magazine and online TV subscriptions which can easily rack up over £1,000 over the course of a year.

4. Needing an update

Since we make regular lifestyle changes, you need to be clear with your wishes and any major changes that you make. So if you move to a different house or get a new car, you need to update this in your will. A common example is agreeing to give your car to one of your children, but if you upgrade to a bigger and more expensive car and it is not noted on your will, the other children have a right to contest this. This type of thing can be avoided by using terminology such as ‘the car in my name.’

5. What if you do not die first?

If you are the oldest in the family, you might think that it is a given that you will die first and pass things over to your children. However, we never know what could happen or if we could live extremely long lives.

As a result, you cannot assume that you will give everything to your children of your spouse. Instead, you might want to have a back-up so that in the event of living a very full life or someone else dying before you, you can still pass on your assets to someone else worthwhile.

6.Updating your will if you get re-married or have children

As soon as you get married, your existing will automatically becomes invalid because it is a given that anything you own, your spouse automatically inherits it. However, this could disadvantage any existing children that you have and also give a claim to any step-children. To satisfy this, you will need to write a new will and make a decision on how you would like to bequeath your assets.

In addition, you will need to choose a parental guardian if you and your partner are no longer alive to care for your children. Failing to do so may allocate your children to another party or unintended recipient, as determined by the family courts.

7. Mentioning unmarried partners

Some people will live for decades with their partner although they are not formally married. Regardless of how long you have been together, they may not be entitled to any of your possessions or wealth if you do not state it in the will. Being married automatically gives the person everything – so tying the knot is one option or addressing this in the will is another.

8. Giving reasons why you are writing someone out of the will

A common characteristic when writing a will is not including some people or children that you feel are not deserving of your wealth. This could be an estranged child or sibling, who maybe upset you along the way. But it is important to give a justified reason as to why they are not included.

Without any real explanation, the individual can claim that it is a mistake and then raise this in court. So giving reasons why you are excluding them is key – it does not have to be too detailed but some indication is enough e.g falling out

One case that hit the headlines last year shows just how tricky this area of the law can be. Heather Illot challenged her mother Melita Jackson’s decision to leave her entire £486,000 estate to three animal charities. After 10 years in the courts, Ms Illot received a £50,000 share after challenging the will under the Inheritance Provision for Family and Dependants Act and was awarded £50,000 on the basis she had been ‘unreasonably’ excluded.

9. Choosing your funeral

Finally, something that you may not have considered is deciding your funeral, which is something that Perfect Funeral Plans can assist with. But whether you prefer a burial or cremation, this is something you need to specify and can pass onto the executor of your will to carry out. If you are looking to offeet the cost of your funeral, you can consider our prepaid funeral plans which allow you to freeze the cost of a funeral today and avoid your family having to fit the bill.