The dangers of homemade wills
8 March, 2021
If your Will is challenged after you die the cost can run to thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds in Court proceedings and legal fees. Often these fees are paid out of the estate leaving very little to distribute to your chosen beneficiaries.
Court cases over the years have shown that Testators who leave homemade Wills could have saved their children/families a lot of money, time and distress if they had paid for a proper professional Will to be drawn up and stored appropriately.
The Will of American TV legend, Larry King is a recent example of this issue. Larry King made a homemade Will, without professional advice. His widow is now challenging that document, arguing that her husband had ‘questionable mental capacity’ at the time it was signed. She is also alleging ‘outside influences’.
The homemade Will leaves all of his estate to be divided equally between his children. The Will was made by Mr King two months after he had filed for divorce from his wife. Sadly he died some 15 months later.
If the Will had been drawn up by an experienced legal professional, there would have been a file note and records regarding the Will instructions and the circumstances surrounding how/when the Will was signed. That evidence is often crucial in warding off claims before they even begin, if they are without merit. That may or may not be the case here but an experienced solicitor would know to address the issues of mental capacity and undue influence, particularly in difficult family circumstances. With a homemade Will, no such records are available to be brought as evidence.
The lack of evidence surrounding whether a homemade Will had been validly executed and witnessed was also discussed in the recent case of Face v Cunningham & anor  which concerned an allegation of forgery. In that case the Judge concluded the one of the deceased’s children had fabricated the Will and the case has been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to possible criminal proceedings.
Litigation is expensive, stressful and can often be avoided if good legal advice is taken in the first place. The cost of a properly drawn up Will is very small when compared to the potential cost of Court proceedings.
At Storrar Cowdry our office remains open for those clients who wish to meet face to face and to make their Wills with a solicitor (subject to local lockdown restrictions in force). We have social distancing and PPE procedures in place. We will help you sign your Will at home if that is your best option. We are also meeting with many of our clients via technology platforms such as zoom.