Are DIY wills dangerous?

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What’s changed?

Some people, anxious about their own mortality, have prepared their own wills without legal input. Some people’s relationships with loved ones have also changed as a result of the pandemic and not being able to visit family and friends in person.

Whilst these aren’t new situations, they are ones that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, potentially forming the landscape of contentious probate claims for years to come.

Which will works?

Take a recent case, where Beautician, Terri Tibbles expected to inherit the entirety of her father’s £300,000 estate. Her four other siblings had been disinherited, on the basis that they were not as close to their father and/or that he considered them to be financially secure in their own right.

Shortly after Mr Tibbles’ death in 2018, a second Will was produced. The Will was handwritten on a piece of notepaper. It was not clear whether Mr Tibbles had written the Will or dictated it or in what circumstances it had been prepared. However, crucially, it did the exact opposite of his previous Will and letter of wishes. It left his estate to be split between Terri’s four siblings and disinherited Terri entirely.

Terri Tibbles’ brother claimed that this was because he had, with his other siblings aside from Terri, been caring for his father during the period of ill-health that ultimately led to his death.

Unsurprisingly, Terri challenged the Will and in High Court proceedings, it was found that the second Will was not legally enforceable. The consequence of this was that the first Will determined the distribution of Mr Tibbles’ estate and Terri inherited it in its entirety.

The court found that no evidence had been produced to explain Mr Tibbles’ dramatic change of heart or to explain the circumstances of the execution of the second Will.

This case highlights the danger of DIY wills and the potential consequences of failing to comply with the legal formalities for preparing a will and the scope for challenges as a result.

Get your will right

Whether you need to create/update a will or have concerns about a will that you would like to challenge, our team are on hand to help you, every step of the way.

Alex Speirs, Muckle LLP associate, is a contentious trust and probate specialist and can help you create/amend a will or support any will query, including disputes over trusts, estate administration and inheritance issues. Call her today on 0191 211 7997 or email [email protected].