People risk having their dying wishes ignored and subjecting grieving loved ones to greater stress if they attempt to cut corners by creating a DIY Will, a Dundee lawyer has warned.
Caroline Fraser, who recently joined the Private Client department in the growing team at Lindsays in the city, has described some of the disastrous consequences of people leaving hand-written instructions or by using pro-forma online options.
It is widely thought that lockdown and time on furlough has provided chances for many to consider their personal affairs, fuelling fears that some may have left their loved ones exposed to problems by turning to DIY Wills.
Many online offerings can be fraught with pitfalls, particularly because of legal differences between Scotland and England, as lawyers at Lindsays have found.
Caroline, who has worked as a lawyer in Dundee for 14 years, has vast experience across the full spectrum of private client matters, from Wills and Powers of Attorney to issues surrounding care and inheritance tax.
She said: “By using a style Will, an individual will not be made aware of legal rights which are a distinctive feature of Scots law, protecting certain family members from disinheritance.”
In one case dealt with by the firm, a lawyer intervened after a client prepared a Will using an online style which conformed to English rather than Scots law. Had he proceeded, there was a danger that it would not have been valid.
Caroline said: “I have had a number of cases over the years where handwritten or ‘off the shelf’ Wills end up costing far more to fix than it would have cost to have a professionally drawn up Will prepared.
“In one case, the Will wasn’t witnessed, it didn’t appoint Executors and didn’t say how the whole estate was to be divided up. All in all, it was a bit of a disaster and took quite a bit of extra and avoidable work to sort it out.”
Specific personal and family factors are also not taken into account in pro-forma offerings, Lindsays has warned.
“When my colleagues and I meet with clients to talk about their wishes, we have the expertise to be able to point out other things they should be thinking about, such as pension issues, death in service benefits, care fee planning and taxation planning,” Caroline added.
“Another common issue that we come across is how couples can protect their own estates when one or both have children from previous relationships. We can come up with practical solutions in these circumstances to protect children from being disinherited by their step-parent.”
If you would like legal advice after writing a DIY Will, or would like to arrange a new Will or Power of Attorney, visit Lindsays’ website by clicking here for more information.