When dealing with a Probate, I often heave a sigh of relief when I see that the person created a Will. Usually, the Will clearly sets out who the deceased wanted to have as their Executors (people responsible for dealing with their estate) and who they wanted as their beneficiaries
However, I’m coming across more estates where there is either an outdated will or a ‘Do It Yourself’ Will and I have issues with both.
When you create a Will, you tend to do so based on your current circumstances which is good- I advise my clients to tell me what they would want to happen to their estate should they pass away the next day! But, it’s also important to consider the future. You might choose to leave everything to one person, but if that person predeceased you and your will doesn’t specify a substitute beneficiary then your estate will pass via the intestacy rules. This may mean it’s distributed to people you wouldn’t have chose or it is given to the Government if you have no surviving relatives. It can be morbid to consider the ‘what if?’ dilemmas, but it will provide you with peace of mind knowing you have included a back up.
Another way a Will can be outdated is if you name a spouse who you then go onto divorce. Once a Decree Absolute is granted your spouse is treated as having pre-deceased you, so any reference to them in your Will is invalid. Similarly, if you create a Will and then enter marriage or a civil partnership this revokes any Wills previously made. As a rule of thumb, you should consider reviewing your Will after a life event and every 5 years.
I have also encountered a number of homemade Wills during my time dealing with probates. Sometimes these estates are dealt with easily and without issue. However, I have encountered Wills where the wording has caused confusion and ambiguous interpretations. I’ve also dealt with Wills where the layout has not been accepted by the Probate Registry meaning additional documents have then had to be produced to prove the validity of the will.
This has only been a brief introduction into the some of the problems encountered when dealing with Wills and estates. Hopefully, you will agree that it is important to create a will and seek legal advice from an experienced solicitor when doing so.
If you would like to create a Will or review your existing one, please do not hesitate to contact us.