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The Problem with Homemade Wills

Published: 2nd May, 2017

LCF Law’s Harrogate based Personal Law solicitor, Mark Jones, outlines the problem with homemade Wills.

Part of my work is dealing with disputes in relation to Wills. The problem can often arise in relation to a homemade Will where the wording used does not have the legal effect that was intended. We all know that small changes to the way something is worded can have a big effect. After all, Lewis Carroll’s career as an author really did not take off until he made a slight change to the name of his book Alice in Sunderland.

Three examples of clauses I have come across in homemade Wills that have led to problems are:

  • “I give ten thousand pounds to my grandchildren”. The person who made the Will (“the Testator”) intended this as a gift of ten thousand pounds to each of his grandchildren but, legally, the wording suggests that the gift is ten thousand pounds to be shared between his grandchildren.
  • “I give my house to my wife and then to my children”. On the face of it, this appears to try to give away the same asset twice, or does it mean that the wife simply has the use of the house during her lifetime? Perhaps it means that the children take the house if the Wife dies before the Testator?
  • “I give my farm to my son John or if he dies before me to his wife”. The problem here was that at the time that the Testator made the Will his son was married to a wife whom the Testator was close to but the son subsequently divorced, married a second wife whom the Testator did not like at all and then died before the Testator. Which wife should get the farm?

William Shakespeare’s Will contained another example of a clause that could lead to some ambiguity. He left a gift of his “second best bed” to his wife. I would be interested to know who decided which of his beds was the second best and, also, who he left the better one to!

My point is that homemade Wills might seem like an economy but they can often lead to a great deal of trouble and expense further down the line. Drafting clauses that have the legal effect intended is a specialist skill which solicitors go through several years of training to acquire.

Do not undervalue a document which may be one of the most important you will ever sign. Take proper advice and have your Will drawn professionally.


This article was written by Mark Jones. Mark is an Partner in our Personal Law Department and is based in Harrogate.

Mark specialises in the creation and administration of trusts, tax planning and wills as well as probate work, particularly those where the family has fallen out and contentious issues have arisen.

Further advice please contact Mark Jones on 01423 502211 or