I’m quite often asked “Why don’t I just do the Will myself?”. Well, the answer is of course you can do it yourself, the same as you can service your car, install a kitchen, and rewire a house yourself! But the reason we don’t generally do that is that:

  1. We just don’t have the spare time!

  2. We want to be sure it’s done correctly!

What follows is a true story of someone who came to me for advice. I’ve changed the names to protect their privacy, but the facts remain the same.

Stay with me on this, if you will, as you’ll be amazed at the outcome!

I was approached by Mrs. Jones who was concerned that her husband had made a mistake whilst drawing up “DIY” Wills. They were both in their late sixties, but their situation was not typical for seven points.

  1. They had known each other 20 years, but only been married 18 months

  2. They actually lived separately in their own houses

  3. Mrs. Jones had two adult sons

  4. Mr. Jones had a Son and Daughter both adults

  5. Mr. Jones Estate was worth £2 Million

  6. Mrs. Jones Estate worth £450,000

  7. Mr. Jones had terminal prostate cancer (with about 18 months to live)

Now Mr. Jones had run a successful business (hence the estate value) and had always done things himself, being wary of “experts”. He’d fallen out with his daughter years ago and had decided that his entire estate should be passed to his son! (and yes, he was aware of the IHT). Mrs. Jones was ok with this, and simply wanted her estate split between her two sons.

Mr. Jones decided he was going to handwrite (yes, you lovely lot, handwrite not even type) Wills for him and his wife detailing their wishes down to the ink stain!

That in itself left him open to his daughter being able to contest it. But it was compounded by the fact, when they both signed these wills and got his son to be one of the witnesses, along with Mrs. Jones’s son as the other.

The problem with this is that family members, or beneficiaries can’t witness a Will! This could lead to the Will becoming invalid, with the laws of Intestacy kicking in.

Now the Intestacy Laws are VERY straightforward. If you’re married with children, then the following rules apply:

  • The first £270,000 goes to your spouse

  • The remainder is split 50:50 between your spouse and children

So, in this instance, because he had not potentially made a valid will, Mr. Jones estate of £2,000,000 could be left in the following way:

  • £270,000 to Mrs. Jones

  • The balance of £1,730,000 split 50:50 between Mrs. Jones and his children:

    • £865,000 to Mrs. Jones

    • £865,000 to Mr. Jones’s Children equally

Unfortunately, as the £865,000 to the children is above the £500,000 limit for IHT gifts (including £175,000, as there’s a property being left too) then the kids would pay a whopping 40% IHT on £365,000 = £146,000. This would leave them with just £719,000 between them.

Brain hurting yet? I know there are a heck of a lot of figures here…

The upshot is, because Mr. Jones didn’t want to pay to have a Will professionally drafted, rather than have his net estate pass entirely to his son, his Wife ends up with £1,135,000 (with no IHT), his estranged daughter £395,500 and son £395,000 (after IHT).

Not surprisingly Mrs. Jones was quite happy with this outcome! However, after I had drafted her Will correctly, she did speak to her husband and explain the situation. Bizarrely he was adamant (and still is) that his Will would stand up to scrutiny and he wasn’t prepared to pay out to have one done.

Even if you haven’t got a £2,000,000 estate, trust me please, it still makes sense to get your Will drawn up professionally!

As I’m sure you now know, you can contact me in confidence, and I will talk you through the process on 01277 562567. Or pop me an email to ian.nicholson@bwep.uk or message me on 07919 241386. The website is still www.bwep.uk. So, until next month stay safe one and all…

Don’t wait, protect your Estate!