The dangers of online Wills – why your solicitor knows best

Published on 09.01.23
Published on 09.01.23

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a huge increase in people writing their Wills. Will writing has traditionally been done by a solicitor, but the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis has led to more and more people looking to online Will writing to cut costs. Elena Stylianou examines the dangers of online Will writing and explains why you are best off using a solicitor. 

Research from Legal and General suggests that in March 2020, the search term ‘Will writing’ peaked at around 11,000 searches per month. This was mainly due to searches by the younger generation, who before 2020 had not considered their Will a priority.

Tax consequences and validity

Though writing an online Will may be cheaper than instructing a solicitor, the risks far outweigh the benefits. A poorly drafted Will without proper legal advice may lead to undesirable tax consequences or your Will being contested once you pass away.

Worse still, a Will that is not executed correctly may not be valid, which means your wishes will not be adhered to, and the laws of intestacy will prevail. We have recently encountered several instances where this has been the case with Wills drafted online.

Without proper legal advice, an individual may not know how best to distribute their assets to not only adhere to their wishes but reduce the tax implications as much as possible. This may lead to some gifts failing under the Will and unnecessary or unwanted tax being payable. A solicitor can offer advice on inheritance tax, overseas assets, marriage breakdowns and many other aspects of a Will that an online service cannot.

Online Wills also do not offer the proper legal terminology required for Wills, and sometimes a single incorrect word can change the whole outcome of the Will. A solicitor can also provide advice to cover all possibilities and outcomes of the Will that an online service cannot do.

Capacity

Furthermore, an online Will service cannot verify an individual’s identity to ensure that the person claiming to make the Will is indeed that same person. Also, an online service cannot establish that the person making the Will has the mental capacity to do so or is not being coerced by someone who will benefit under the terms of that Will. This can lead to a Will being contested once the individual has passed away, causing unnecessary headache and costs.

By contrast, a solicitor is bound by strict regulations and must carry out all necessary identity checks. They must also ensure an individual has the mental capacity to make their Will and is not being pressured by someone else.

It is, therefore, vital that when thinking about making a Will, you obtain proper legal advice from a solicitor. While the cost of preparing the Will may be higher than using an online service, using an online service may be far more costly in the end.

If you require any further information about Wills, please contact Elena Stylianou at [email protected].

Disclaimer: The above is merely general guidance and should not be relied on as formal advice. We suggest you take professional legal advice before taking any action in relation to the issues discussed above.