When making a Will, you must make sure that it complies with the law in England and Wales. Otherwise certain gifts might fail, or your entire Will could be deemed invalid. When this happens your Estate will be shared out according to strict inheritance laws under the Rules of Intestacy, rather than any wishes you have expressed.
The Rules of Intestacy can be harsh as they often don’t allow for modern family relationships, for example, they make no provision for unmarried partners. This means that the surviving partner will not automatically inherit any of the property and possessions owned in the sole name of the deceased.
How to Make a Will Legal
For a Will to be legally valid in English law, you must:
- Be over the age of 18
- Be of ‘sound mind’
- Make the Will in writing
- Make the Will voluntarily
- Sign the Will in the presence of two witnesses
- Have the Will signed by two witnesses in your presence.
Be over the age of 18
If someone under the age of 18 makes a Will, it won’t be taken into consideration on their death, regardless of the age at which he/she dies. There are some exceptions to this rule, but they are unusual.
Be of sound mind
Being of ‘sound mind’ means that you understand the contents of the Will, and the implications of leaving your Estate to your beneficiaries (and the implications of excluding certain people as beneficiaries).
If you are not of sound mind at the time of writing your Will, someone with a claim to your Estate may decide to challenge your Will after your death.
Make a Will in writing
A Will must be written. If you verbally express your wishes to a loved one, the law in England and Wales won’t be able to recognise your wishes.
Make the Will voluntarily
Only you should decide what to write in your Will. You should not be influenced or put under any pressure as to what to include in your Will, or what to exclude. If there is any suspicion that you have made your Will ‘under duress’, a successful challenge could be made after your death.
Sign the Will in the presence of two witnesses
Once you’ve written your Will, you must sign the document in front of two witnesses. These witnesses must be over the age of 18. They must also be independent, meaning they are not beneficiaries named in your Will, or married to beneficiaries named in your Will.
Therefore if you’ve named your daughter as a beneficiary, she cannot witness the Will, nor can her husband or wife. If you make this mistake in your Will, it won’t actually make your entire Will invalid. However, the gift to that particular beneficiary will fail. For more information see Who Can Witness a Will?
Have the Will signed by two witnesses in your presence
Your witnesses must sign your Will in front of you.
The signing of the Will (also known as the ‘execution’ of the Will) is often where mistakes are made, so it’s important to follow the instructions you’ve been given by your Will writer.
Unlike many other Will writing companies, Co-op Legal Services is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), and have insurance covering all of our work and we have protection of client funds under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
Rules of Intestacy
If the Will is deemed legally invalid after your death, it will effectively be the same as dying without a Will. This means that a set of laws called the Rules of Intestacy will determine who inherits what. Any wishes that you’ve recorded in your (now invalid) Will won’t be taken into consideration.
To avoid this from happening, it’s important not to make any errors when making and signing your Will. Therefore it’s best to ask a professional Will writer for help, as this will minimise the risk of mistakes being made; giving you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out after you’re gone.
Call our Will writers for initial advice on 03306069591 or contact us online and we will help you.