Are DIY wills creating more inheritance conflicts?

FOI request finds near-40% increase in legal challenges after pandemic sparks go-it-alone succession planning

Are DIY wills creating more inheritance conflicts?

Could the increased use of do-it-yourself wills be the tinder for a wildfire of inheritance disputes?

That’s the question provoked by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the law firm Nockolds, which revealed a spike in such conflicts in the UK.

As reported by International Adviser, figures revealed a 37% increase in such legal challenges in UK courts between 2019 and 2021, with approximately 10,000 cases being taken before tribunals in the previous year.

A huge increase in DIY wills, particularly during the pandemic when people were forced to create succession plans on their own due to the need to organize their family affairs, is largely to blame for this, according to the FOI.

Research by Royal London indicates more than half (56%) of adults in the UK do not have a legally binding will, including 79% of 18- to 34-year-olds.

Forty-seven per cent of people who do not have an inheritance plan in place understand how important it is to have one but have not yet created a will.

With 29% not having done so in more than five years, more than 60% of people haven't reviewed their will in over a year.

“The pandemic really focused people’s minds on the need to have their financial affairs in order. Death is one of the great taboo topics that most people find incredibly hard to talk about,” Clare Moffat, pensions & legal expert at Royal London, told International Adviser. “But discussing plans ensures you and your loved ones can be better prepared emotionally, practically and financially.

“Statistics show that the pandemic was responsible for a spike in DIY will writing, possibly to save money. While avoiding the cost of using a will writer or solicitor may seem like a good way of saving money, producing a Will yourself could lead to problems and end up costing a lot more in the long term,” Moffat added.

The current cost of living crisis could be made even worse, she maintained, when a family is unable to access funds for months or even years following the death of the primary earner.

Because of how complicated the law is, it's very simple to invalidate a will or leave it vulnerable to legal challenge, especially if it’s drafted by someone unfamiliar with the vocabulary and writing process.

“Family structures are increasingly complicated, which in turn comes with challenging financial arrangements. So, it’s more important than ever to make sure your Will is legally correct. Taking financial advice can also save money in the longer term. Planning in advance can help reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable on death.

Learn how can you avoid or reduce taxes on your estate when you die in this article.

“Having a Will can prove invaluable, especially if there are children, blended families or cohabitees. Preparing for death might seem pessimistic but in practice it’s about making sure the people you love receive what you would want them to. And it removes a lot of the complexity in the process at a time of sadness, compared with facing the laws of intestacy.”

She also said that if there are children, blended families, or cohabitees, having a will can be extremely helpful. Compared to having to deal with the laws of intestacy, it also greatly reduces the complexity of the process during a difficult time.