The “armchair principle” in Will writing

I recently read this article from the BBC talking about the importance of being clear in one’s Will. Ambiguous wording in a recent Will resulted in a £500k legacy going to the government. The article also took the opportunity to try and draw a line between this situation and the dangers of preparing one’s own Will. There wasn’t any indication that the mis-directed bequest came from a do-it-yourself Will, but these unfortunate situations somehow are used as examples of why you need to pay high fees for a legal professional.

Specifically, and it is important to be specific, this article warns people with;

Strict rules governing the way a will is made and executed mean that errors can be made very easily which can invalidate it. These errors often include not signing the will or having it witnessed correctly.

This does seem to be the most used scare tactic; pay for a legal professional or your Will may be invalidated. Let me shed some light on these strict rules; the Will must be signed at the end, and the signing needs to be witnessed by two people with no vested interest in the contents of the Will. This includes beneficiaries or the spouse of a beneficiary. It is also a good idea for you and your witnesses to initial each page. There. That’s it.

This article also makes reference to “the armchair principle” that exists in the UK, and it being adopted by many Canadian Provinces. In essence it means that your Will is not going to be invalidated because of a technical error. Every effort will be made to understand the intention of the person writing the Will. For example if somebody wrote “my sitter, Jane Doe”, but meant “my sister, Jane Doe”, the chances are the courts will say “he doesn’t have a sitter, it wouldn’t make sense for him to leave his entire estate to his sitter, he obviously means his sister, the one named Jane Doe”.

It is important to be clear and unambiguous with instructions. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to leave your entire estate to “my friend John” without being specific about who you mean, but with a little common sense, anybody can prepare their own Will.

Services like those at LegalWills.ca, USLegalWills.com and LegalWills.co.uk take care of the legal clauses and jargon, and also protect against doing anything you can’t legally do in your jurisdiction. There is really no need to be fearful of preparing your own Will, and these “strict rules” that the lawyers warn us of, are actually very simple.

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