What should be included in a will? Private Wealth
A will should clearly lay out who you want to benefit from your will, who should look after any children under 18, who will be your executor (the person responsible for sorting out your estate and carrying out your wishes), and what should happen if the people included in your will die before you do.
There are certain criteria which must be met to ensure your will is legally valid. You must:
- Be aged 18 or over
- Be making a will of your own free will (voluntarily)
- Be of sound mind
- Make your will in writing
- Sign the will in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both over 18 and UK citizens
- Have the will signed by the same 2 witnesses, in your presence
In England and Wales, the signing of a will can be witnessed either in person or by video call and other remote means. In both instances the will maker and witnesses must sign the same document and you must have a clear view of the person and the act of signing.
It is important to know that witnesses cannot be beneficiaries within a will, nor can their partners. However, they can be named as executors.
At its core, a will is a document which makes it clear what should happen to your property, money, assets, and children if you die. Therefore, there is no specific right or wrong way to write a will. However, it must meet the conditions above to be deemed legally valid.
What makes a will invalid?
If a will is found to be invalid following your death, it can be quite costly to resolve. For this reason, many people choose to seek out professional help in writing their will to minimise the opportunity for disputes to arise.
There are several things that can make a will invalid. These include:
Lack Of Testamentary Capacity
At the time of making a will you must be aged 18 or over and have testamentary capacity. This means that you have the capacity to understand the size and extent of your estate, that your listed beneficiaries will receive your assets, the implications of including/excluding certain people as beneficiaries, and that you are not being influenced in to making any decisions.
A will is deemed invalid if you are found to have lacked testamentary capacity at the time of making your will. Testamentary capacity can be impeded by certain illnesses and conditions, such as dementia or old age.
To avoid your testamentary capacity being called into question, it is possible to ask a GP or doctor to witness your will.
You Are Unduly Influenced
Your will should be made voluntarily. If a person makes a will and it is found that they have been manipulated, it can be deemed invalid. While you can ask for help and advice in creating a will, only you should decide what goes in it, without fear of emotional or physical repercussions.
The Will Is Incorrectly Witnessed
A will must be signed in the presence of 2 people who are both 18 or over and UK citizens. Your witnesses must not be named as beneficiaries in the will or married to someone who is.
Witnesses must be present, either physically or by remote means, at the time of signing the will. If they are not in the room at the exact moment the will is signed, or something impedes their view of the signing, this leaves the validity of the will open to dispute.
If a person has reason to believe that a will is forged, and they can prove this, then it is no longer valid.
Furthermore, there are certain occasions where a will can be ‘revoked’. In essence, this means that specific will is cancelled and no longer valid.
For example, when you create a new will to replace an old one, you would include a clause which makes it clear that the new will overrides any previous wills. Similarly, if you wish to revoke a will altogether, it is possible to invalidate the old will by making a written declaration and physically destroying the will document.
Wills & Estate Planning Help & Advice
There are many aspects to consider when drafting a will. For that reason, lots of people find it helpful to work with an expert who can guide them through the best options for their situation.
If you would like help and advice with creating a will and putting your affairs in order, our team of specialist private wealth solicitors are here for you. From will drafting to family home protection and beyond, we’ll help you set the wheels in motion for securing and protecting your family’s future and making your wishes clear.