Getting the Wording in your Will Right

May 12, 2023   ·   5 minute read
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Where there is a Will there is a way, well that is the old adage. It isn’t always true though. That’s because if you are writing your own Will mistakes can be made that aren’t immediately obvious. Sometimes it is only when a Will solicitor is reviewing a handmade Will, or applying for probate to sort out an estate, that the problem is discovered.

For expert advice on Wills and probate call our team of specialist probate lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.

Will writing and avoiding mistakes

When people give instructions on their new Will most are concerned about getting the addresses of executors and beneficiaries correct without realising that their proposed Will doesn’t actually do what they want. If the problem isn’t spotted before their new Will is finalised it could cause massive heartache for the family.

One common example of Will writing mistakes and the importance of getting the wording in your Will right is leaving your estate to your ‘children.’ You know what you mean by your children but legally your estate will go to your biological children, excluding a much-loved step-child whom you may have brought up as your own and never intended to exclude from your Will.

The same sort of problem can occur with grandchildren when your children’s relationships are complicated and you have a number of children in your family who are not biologically related to you but whom you view and treat as your grandchildren because you are so close to them.

When a Will solicitor is writing a Will it is important to understand family dynamics to make sure that the wording in your Will reflects your family circumstances and your wishes.

You may think that a Will mistake can be sorted out by your executors but that involves all interested beneficiaries agreeing to the change and extra work by the probate solicitor. Alternatively, if the excluded relative has the grounds to do so they could challenge the Will and make a claim against the estate. That can be expensive and time-consuming and the last thing that the Will writer anticipated when writing their Will.

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Will solicitors can’t over-emphasise how important it is to consider your family circumstances when writing a Will. For example:

  • If you are in a cohabiting relationship with your partner, they are not legally your husband or wife and so should not be referred to as your spouse in your Will. You may still have a legal spouse if you have not finalised the divorce proceedings and obtained a final order of divorce
  • If you leave your estate equally between your children and one passes away before you do so then your remaining children will inherit your estate. That means your grandchildren from your late child will miss out and will not get a share of your estate even though their cousins will eventually inherit a share of your estate via their parents
  • Leaving money to named children can be a problem if you have any additional children because they will lose out unless you change your Will when they are born. With the work that comes with a new arrival, it can be easy to forget to review and change your Will. A Will solicitor tries to avoid this sort of problem by naming any non-biological children but also ensuring that the definition of biological children includes any additional children you may have
  • Giving a specific legacy to a beneficiary can result in Will problems as you may not own the specific asset at the date of death. That means the beneficiary gets nothing even though that is not what you intended as you simply forgot to review your Will when you sold the specific asset or the property creating an unfair result for the named beneficiary
  • Leaving a large legacy to one person before giving your residuary estate to relatives can be an issue. If the legacy is large you need to continue to review your Will provisions because if, by the date of your death, your estate has reduced in value (for example because of care home fees) your entire estate may be eaten up with the large legacy to an old friend leaving your residual beneficiaries with little or nothing because the old friend’s legacy has to be paid before the residuary beneficiaries receive anything

You may think that Will errors and wording mistakes are exceptionally rare but that isn’t the case. Our experience as solicitors who specialise in preparing Wills and helping families sort out probate and legacies after loved ones have passed away say that it is surprisingly common for mistakes to be made in Wills. Most people think their financial affairs are straightforward and so problems won’t crop up in their Will but sadly homemade Wills don’t always do what the Will writer wanted and may cause a lot of extra grief when the Will writer passes away.

Get advice from a professional when preparing a Will can save you and your family a lot of money when your estate is sorted out. The cost of getting your Will prepared by a specialist Will solicitor can also save you money during your life as your Will may not need to be changed as often. What’s more the cost and speed of getting a professionally prepared Will is often a lot less than you might think and gives you and your family peace of mind.

For expert advice on Wills and probate call our team of specialist probate lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.