Published 07th March 2016 | OM&M News

Don’t DIY the Law!

Most of us have tried a spot of DIY – maybe around the house or garden, but would you attempt DIY dentistry or surgery? Probably not, but we see this regularly when it comes to legal matters. You might be interested in considering the points below when thinking of DIY in the realm of Wills and Family Law……

  • An agreed divorce can be straight forward, but problems can arise where the other party fails to comply with the procedure. The Petitioner will need to know alternative methods of proving service and if necessary be able to seek appropriate Costs Orders against the Respondent.
  • Where the Petitioner is issuing a divorce on a “fault based” ground, they are often not aware that they can seek that part, or all of their legal fees be paid by the Respondent. We have also seen circumstances where Costs Orders have not been properly applied for, or difficulties in dealing with contested applications for costs.
  • For those co-habiting couples we have seen many self-drafted letters which parties try and to use when matters have become litigated. These letters are rarely legally binding and quite often it would have been more cost effective to have instructed a qualified solicitor to draw up Co-habitation or Separation Agreement in the first place.
  • By far the most important aspect of DIY tasks when it comes to family law is in dealing with the financial assets. There has been much reported in the news recently of a wife who has successfully pursued her husband after 20 years of divorce for a further “bite of the cherry”, so to speak. Improperly self-drafted financial settlements are open to being changed in the future and are rarely therefore “final”.
  • Homemade Wills often neglect to include consideration of how a property is owned, which can either be joint tenants or tenants in common; the difference is very important. If property is held as joint tenants this can be converted to tenants in common. If necessary, it is very important that this is done correctly and because it relates to the most valuable asset.
  • Homemade Wills are often not executed properly either because there have not been enough witnesses to the document or the chosen witnesses are also beneficiaries of the Will – which invalidates their gift.
  • DIY Wills often fail to include substitute beneficiaries which can lead to a partial intestacy. This means that blood relatives you may not have even met will inherit from you if your chosen beneficiaries die before you.

Once your Will is signed and witnessed, it is crucial that you do not try to amend the document. This could invalidate the document entirely. If you need to make a small change, ask a solicitor to draw a Codicil for you.

Close up of a Will document

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