You must be at least 18 years old to make a Will, unless you are a solider on active duty or a sailor at sea, in which case you can be any age.
Who Can Make a Will?
To make a Will in England or Wales you must:
- Be aged 18 or over
- Have ‘sound testamentary capacity’
There are only two situations in which people under the age of 18 are legally allowed to make a Will – they are soldiers on active duty, or they are sailors at sea. In these situations someone can make a Will no matter how old they are, even if they’re under the age of 18.
These exceptions have been in place since 1918, the year World War 1 came to an end. The law is intended to reflect the fact that young people can be placed in dangerous situations during the course of active duty, or whilst working at sea, and so should have the opportunity to record their wishes.
There is no upper age limit when making a Will, but you must be of ‘sound testamentary capacity’. This means that at the moment you sign your Will, you:
- Understand that you are giving your assets to your beneficiaries
- Understand and know the extent of your ‘Estate’, which is the collective term for everything you own
- Understand the implications of including certain people as beneficiaries, and the implications of excluding certain people from the Will
- Must not be influenced into making decisions that you would not have made, had you been of ‘sound mind’
So essentially, ‘sound testamentary capacity’ means that you are mentally capable of understanding what you are doing and the implications of signing your Will. If the mental capacity of someone is in question, advice should be sought from a medical practitioner.
If you’re making a Will and you think your mental capacity could be called into question, you should ask at least one medical practitioner to act a witness. This will make it harder for anyone to say that you weren’t of sound mind when you made your Will.
Too Young to Make a Will?
Lots of people feel like they are too young to make a Will, and that they only need to think about it when they reach old age. However, making a Will isn’t something you should put off, and people of all ages should be encouraged to make a Will.
This is partly because you have to be of sound mind when making a Will. None of us knows what’s round the corner, and more and more of us are developing conditions such as dementia. So if you put it off, you may find yourself in a situation where your mental capacity has been adversely affected by illness, accident or injury, meaning you are not legally able to make a Will anymore.
It’s also important to make a Will at certain milestones in life, many of which will happen in your younger years. For example, when you have a child, a Will allows you to say who should be their Legal Guardian if you die and the other parent has previously passed away. If you don't appoint a Legal Guardian then it may end up being decided by the Courts.
Other important life milestones that should prompt you into making or updating a Will include:
- Buying property – so that you can set out who should inherit your share of the property
- Getting married – because marriage invalidates any previous Will that has been made
- Getting divorced – because it's important to understand how your Estate will now be inherited and the impact it may have on an existing Will