Probate Experts Warn Against Online Wills

The ongoing global pandemic has prompted many to turn their thoughts to their futures and to put plans in place to ensure their personal legal affairs are in order. In December 2020, The Law Society reported that 7% of survey respondents made or updated their will during the first COVID-19 lockdown, with online services experiencing a surge in interest. However, as these technologies continues to grow in popularity, mounting concerns lead us to conclude that the number of contested wills is expected to rise.

When it comes to writing your will online, do you really understand what you are buying? And do these quick and easy will writing services genuinely have your best interests at heart?

Senior couple using laptop together

Does A ‘Simple’ Online Will Really Meet Your Requirements?

Earlier in the year, the consultancy firm, Funeral Solution Expert (FSE), surveyed 1,500 UK consumers and reviewed over 25 providers offering a variety of online will writing services, and their findings were a cause for concern. Their independent research revealed that as many as 70% of consumers consider their affairs to be ‘simple’ when many later go on to discover through questioning that their affairs are in fact ‘complex’.

Where a will is unsuitable, there are several possible scenarios. If the fault is discovered in time, it can be rewritten at an additional cost. If there is an error which negates the will, it will not take effect once the testator has died and his or her estate will pass to survivors under the intestacy rules – i.e. there is no will. A third possibility is that the will takes effect but either does not carry out the testator’s wishes, or involves payment of unnecessary tax, or both.

Closeup of a man on laptop in morning

In such cases it is commonly not possible to pursue any claim against the will-writer, unless the will has been made by a firm of solicitors. If a claim can be pursued, the will-writer’s terms of business may well limit the amount of compensation to the amount that was paid for having the will drawn up, or some other arbitrarily low figure.

There are some excellent will-writers, and an online will might be a good solution if the testator’s affairs are genuinely simple.  But to save taking any risks, especially if you are unsure of your tax position or whether your estate is genuinely “simple”, we  strongly advise you to consult a professional firm that is registered with the appropriate regulator. A M Davies is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and we are also members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and therefore highly qualified in this area of legal work.

Concerns Over Online Will Writing Services Echoed by Industry Professionals

The fact that most people are unaware that online will writers are not regulated (and insured) in the same way as solicitors, and that they do not have insurance to cover liability for any mistakes that may occur, is a significant part of the problem.

“It’s shocking that whilst solicitors are required to have professional indemnity insurance covering claims potentially as high as £2m or £3… Other professionals offering wills limit their liability to the cost of the will. £200 compensation doesn’t seem sufficient to cover a mistake that could end up costing someone their entire estate or inheritance.” – Michael Culver, chair of Solicitors for the Elderly, commented.

Please visit our website for more information on making a will or contact us directly for expert advice and support.