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Will writing and wording: the importance of getting Will wording right

Jun 12, 2018   ·   3 minute read

Where there is a Will there is a way, well that is the old adage. It isn’t always true though as evidenced by a case reported in The Express.

It is hard to believe that £500,000 was left in a Will, with a condition on the legacy that it was to be used to pay off the ‘’entire national debt’’. The legacy has sat in a bank account and the money has grown to a reported £400 million. However the national debt now stands at about £1.7 trillion. That is some shortfall.

You wouldn’t think that one simple word in the Will, ‘’entire‘’ has meant that the legacy has sat in a bank account for decades. As all accept that the national debt isn’t going to fall to the amount of the £400 million legacy (especially with bank interest rates) the government has asked the Court for permission for the money to be released for the benefit of the nation.

You may think that this case is exceptional. You’d be right to think that but in my experience as a solicitor specialising in preparing Wills and helping families sort out probate and legacies after loved ones have passed away, 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 I have reviewed homemade and Will writer prepared Wills that sadly won’t do what the person wanted and may cause a lot of extra grief when they pass away.

Examples of common Will wording mistakes are:

  • Leaving money to your ‘’children’’ – that may be fine in some families but if you have a step child that you haven’t formally adopted then he or she won’t get anything under your Will. This is a common and understandable mistake in wording as often step children are thought of in exactly the same way as natural children – but not under succession law;
  • Leaving money to named ‘’children’’ – that is ok provided that you don’t have any more children. If you do then unless your Will is changed the unnamed children won’t inherit anything. When I prepare a Will I aim to cover as many options as I can to make sure that a Will doesn’t have to be rewritten every 9 months or so;
  • Giving a specific legacy to a beneficiary – that is fine if you own the shares or property when you die but if the shares or property have been sold the beneficiary will get nothing. On the other hand if a property has gone up in value and other assets have been sold the beneficiary getting the house may end up with far more of your estate than you intended, creating an unfair result for other family and loved ones.

The morale of the tale? Get advice from a professional when preparing a Will. Not only can it save you and your family a lot of money when your estate is sorted out the cost of getting your Will drawn up a specialist solicitor can also save you money during your life as it 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 will give you and your family peace of mind.

For advice on Wills and estate planning or probate queries please call me on +44 (0) 1477 464020 or contact me by email at