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Ask the Legal Expert - DIY Wills Can Cause Avoidable Family Upsets

View profile for Sean Boucher
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I have children and step children and a small property to leave, so I’m aware I need to make a Will. My family and I have discussed my wishes and I don’t expect conflicts to arise after my death. Do I need to make a formal Will or can I just leave my wishes in writing in a letter, as I have done?

Many people are tempted to make DIY Wills, but they can cause real problems for the family left behind, at an already stressful time.

A fairly high number of inheritance disputes are heard in the High Court as a direct result of DIY Wills, which are often undermined by errors and omissions. Any ensuing disputes can, of course, be costly.

Home-made Wills also often prompt family members to deal with the distribution of assets themselves, rather than seeking professional advice. This can be fraught with risk, due to conflict of interest, if the family member is also a beneficiary.

It is very common now for people to be part of quite complex blended families, and to have property, or a business to consider, when detailing their Will, so even if you don’t consider that you have a vast number of assets, you may, in fact, have a fairly substantial estate to bequeath. It is very important that people consult a professional when writing their Will. The Inheritance Act 1975 is complex and mistakes in DIY wills can render them illegitimate or hard to administer. The Court’s over-riding interest will be in adhering to the law rather than the stated wishes of a Will maker if there is any lack of clarity in the way these wishes have been expressed.

An alarming number of people – around 60 percent – pass away without having a proper Will in place and this can cause unnecessary hardship too, so it is good that you are aware of the need to get your affairs in order.

We recommend to our clients that they review their Will every three years, in order to keep it relevant, and any major changes in your circumstances should prompt you to do this too.

JCP’s Lifetime Planning team is always on hand for tailored and professional legal support. For specialist legal advice, call Sean Boucher on: 01267 66944 or email:

For further advice, please contact our specialist Lifetime Planning Solicitors in:

  • Swansea: 01792 773773
  • Cardiff: 02920 225472
  • Carmarthen: 01267 234022
  • Caerphilly: 02920 860628
  • Cowbridge: 01446 771742
  • Haverfordwest: 01437 764723
  • Fishguard: 01348 873671

The question posed is based upon a hypothetical situation.