Are Online Wills Safe?
During the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for Wills exploded. National lockdowns and the threat of the virus caused many people to pause and consider whether they needed to put their final affairs in order.
However, the pandemic also made it a lot harder to make a Will. Many solicitors' offices were forced to close during lockdowns, many people went into isolation (particularly older people and those with health conditions), and it became much harder to get Wills properly witnessed.
Therefore, many people turned to the internet to get an online Will. With a quick Google search, you can find online Will providers or templates that allow you to make a Will without having to step outside your home.
But are these providers safe? Experts have recently warned that online Will writers could put you and your family at risk. Many online Will providers are not qualified lawyers and are not regulated - this means that they may not have the necessary expertise, and their clients aren't protected if things go wrong.
Simon Cox of Funeral Solution Expert has said that "there is no doubt that an online Will can be a good solution if affairs are genuinely simple". However, he noted that 65% of people who thought their affairs were simple, actually had complex affairs.
There is a risk that many Wills made using online templates or by online Will writing companies could be contested after the testator (the person who made the Will) dies. This could result in expensive and extremely stressful court litigation for the testator's family.
So, people should consider very carefully about who they want to write and execute their Will.
Using a qualified solicitor who specialises in writing Wills means that you get high quality advice about what to include, and no detail will be missed. A solicitor can also provide this service online if it's suitable for you (and they'll have the legal knowledge to advise when an online Will might not be the best option for you).
What are the risks of making an online Will?
Missing out important details
Online Will writers are often not legally qualified and don't have the right legal knowledge to provide their clients with a top-quality service. These providers often work from templates and cannot provide complex or bespoke advice. This only works if their client has simple requirements. However, many people do not have simple requirements. If you own property, have investments, have pensions or run your own company, you need a specialist to avoid missing out vital details.
Missing out details at this stage could mean that your wishes won't be carried out as you intended after you die. It could even lead to a legal dispute between your loved ones over your final wishes.
Unclear or confusing clauses
Again, because online Will writers are often not legally qualified, they may not have the knowledge to draft water-tight Will clauses that are clear and unconfusing.
Confusing Will clauses often lead to legal disputes between family members who cannot agree on what the testator's true wishes were. This sometimes requires a court judge to make a ruling on the interpretation of the Will, which can be expensive and stressful.
Executing the Will incorrectly
A Will must be precisely executed, following strict legal rules; otherwise, it may not be valid. For example, you must sign your Will in the presence of at least two witnesses. If your Will is not properly witnessed, it can be challenged in court and could be set aside.
Traditionally, the law required witnesses to physically be present. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, the law was changed to allow witnessing to happen over video link software, such as Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams. This helps people who need to self-isolate, but there are concerns video-witnessed Wills could be easily challenged in court if not made very carefully.
Making a Will using an online provider or template means that the burden is on you to get things right. Providers who are not legally qualified may also be more likely to make mistakes when executing your Will, particularly if the Will is witnessed over video-link.
A solicitor who specialises in Will-writing will be trained to execute Wills correctly and can be held responsible if they do make mistakes.
Risk of exploitation
Older and vulnerable people are often sadly at risk of exploitation, especially when it comes to making a Will. When making a Will online, it is much easier for a family member, a neighbour, a carer, or someone else close to the 'testator' to apply undue influence or forge the Will.
When a solicitor writes a Will, they often have experience in helping older and vulnerable people and always lookout for signs of exploitation.
No protection if things go wrong
Online Will writers are usually unregulated, which means there's little to no protection for their clients if they make mistakes or things go wrong.
Conversely, solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, so are under strict duties to maintain high standards of care and hold insurance to cover any mistakes.
Choose one of our Will solicitors to make your Will
Don't put something as important as your loved ones' futures at risk. Our Will solicitors are legally qualified, regulated and are experts at writing Wills. However simple or complex your requirements, we can provide a fast, affordable service, including a fixed fee Will writing service for straightforward Wills.