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Inheritance tax (IHT) is levied on the estate of a person who has passed away, and is taxable at 40 percent above a particular threshold. With people looking to reduce these costs for loved ones, many have chosen to draw up a Will – which has particularly been the case throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the number of people choosing to do this arrangement themselves, rather than consulting a solicitor has drastically increased, leaving some concerned about the consequences for Britons.
Express.co.uk spoke to Jenny Pierce, Director at Solicitors for the Elderly and Head of Wills, Probates and Trusts at Wards Solicitors about the matter.
She explained some of the risks and consequences associated with so-called ‘DIY’ Wills, and how Britons should act going forward.
Ms Pierce said: “My view is that DIY Wills are very risky. There is no advice taken, it is a form filling exercise. While it may work in certain circumstances, proper Will writing is about protection of your hard-earned wealth.
“One size does not fit all. And with people who are making DIY Wills they are looking for expediency and cost cutting.
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“But what I have seen with those Wills is that they have been disputed later down the line, or that they don’t actually achieve what that person set out to.
“There is also the Inheritance Tax planning side, which may not be well utilised or thought through if a person decides to do this themselves.”
Many choose to opt for DIY Wills due to the perceived simplicity of such an arrangement – particularly the ease of completing the document.
Indeed, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be slightly more complex to follow a formal route due to the extra party it brings in to dealing with the matter.
However, Ms Pierce has said while people believe such a method is an easy one, many are failing to understand the legal difficulties which could ensue.
She highlighted a general lack of understanding when it comes to making sure a Will is not only complete, but also valid.
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Ms Pierce added: “Wills can also be more complicated than people give them credit for, and when people do this for themselves, often they can get things wrong.
“A person might not carry out the witnessing in the right way, or cross something out and make amendments later on. And of course, this can cause issues.
“You can also lose a DIY Will pretty easily, especially if you keep it with all of the rest of your papers.
“Someone could come along after you die, not realise the importance of the paperwork, and then it might even be confined to the shredder, and all of your wishes lost.”
Some situations are, in fact, simple, but aside from costs and completion, there are other factors to bear in mind.
Ms Pierce said: “In some cases, of course, your family structure might be really simple, and there are plenty of instances out there which are.
Inheritance Tax: IHT is levied on the estate of a person who has passed away
“You might not have any previous marriages, you don’t have any issues with children, you don’t have any complex arrangements of who you wish to inherit – and that’s fine.
“But peace of mind is what that is about, because maybe there are some things there could be to iron out.
“These days, with more complex family structures, that is another reason people really ought to seek advice.
“There is tax planning you can do, issues to do with marriage and divorce and what that means for a Will, and lots of other subtleties to bear in mind.”
When making a Will, therefore, there are a number of important considerations Britons must consider.
These can be difficult to navigate, even if using a Will writing company, and so Ms Pierce always recommends taking advice on the matter.
She concluded: “DIY Wills and an online procedure where you fill in a form and it spits out a form are fraught with the same risks.
“While I don’t wish to tar all Will writing companies with the same brush, some are unlikely to account for the complexities in arrangements.
“If you look into it, in my experience, most people have something quite quirky in their arrangement – it may not appear so to them, but it usually is the case.
“That’s where using a solicitor can really provide you with assistance, and guidance on your specific arrangement.
“As solicitors, we take at least an hour with our client to really get to know them and ask the right questions.
“We can talk about some of those quirks, for example, if a person has additional children to care for, or if they want to leave a certain member of the family out of the Will.
“It makes arrangements far more water-tight and ensures people’s wishes are protected after they pass away.”