DIY wills…are they worth the paper they’re written on?

Fountain pen on Legal notepaper writing a will

Sadly, in the majority of cases, they’re not. Many people mistakenly believe that a deceased’s DIY will is sufficient enough to apportion the estate according to their wishes when they were alive.

DIY will kits give the impression that the purchaser doesn’t need to seek legal advice when completing the enclosed forms. Anyone can complete a DIY will, hence their name; however, this can be part of the issue—it’s akin to writing your wishes on the back of an envelope. Getting a court to take one as the be all and end all, if aspects of the estate are contested, is very difficult indeed.

Whilst they may be adequate in simple estate cases, i.e. when the assets and instructions of the deceased are straightforward, we still wouldn’t recommend them. Simply because, it doesn’t take much for an estate to become complicated…who knows how many people may come out of the woodwork to contest your wishes, should you die?

Family gathering from a 'Blended' family

Every year, more and more ‘blended’ families exist, as people enjoy second or third marriages, with children born into each. These family set-ups can prove complicated when a parent dies. The pandemic saw more than 407,000 people launch businesses, the continuity of which and its succession are important considerations should the business owner pass away. In these scenarios, and many more besides, a DIY will would be worthless.

The mental capacity of the deceased when they completed their DIY will is a significant issue to prove, made harder if it only comes down to the word of family members—even more so if these individuals would ultimately benefit from the estate. Ascertaining the comprehension of the person making their will carries much more clout in court if a legal professional can corroborate this—they can also witness and verify the individual’s signature, which is unlikely to be the case if the deceased used a will kit.

On top of these considerations, DIY wills often fail to appoint executors, who are the people you choose to ensure your wishes are met after your passing. In this scenario, your loved ones have to apply to the courts for probate, which lengthens the process considerably and can see legal fees mount.

I’ve experienced this situation with a member of my extended family. Their father passed away, having only completed a DIY will. The courts deemed this DIY will to be invalid, as it wasn’t signed when its creator was alive, nor did he revoke his previous will. It’s surprising just how common this is, which is no consolation to my relation who, a year on from his father passing away, is no further forward with the apportioning of his estate.

October is Will Month, and there will be a national drive on the subject, in a bid to help everyone put adequate protection in place should the worst happen, and to set their individual wishes in stone. As autumn will have really set in and darker days will be upon us at that point, it’s an ideal time to consider your mortality. It’s not something people enjoy doing, admittedly, but making plans in the case of your death is much better than dealing with such a situation where there’s no roadmap, no instructions in place, and no end in sight to the legal hurdles that will undoubtedly come your way. Just think of it in the same vein as going to the dentist; it’s something that needs to be done, because not doing it could turn out to be a terrible decision.

For more information on making your will, call Ruth Wilson on 01226 107111, use our webform at the bottom of this page, or email