A Will is a helpful and reassuring legal document to have in place, no matter your age or personal circumstances.
If someone dies without having made a Will, or if their Will is no longer valid, it is called dying intestate. In these situations, the government decide who will inherit the individual’s assets based on the intestacy rules. Usually, this would mean their estate would pass to their closest legal relative.
The problem with this is that someone’s closest legal relative is not always the person they would’ve chosen to leave their estate to. For example, an unmarried partner or step-child would not be able to inherit under intestacy rules.
Making a Will – and ensuring it remains valid – is the only way to be sure that your estate would pass to the person of your choice in the event of your death.
Your solicitor will help you decide how you would like your estate to be administered. They will also be able to ensure precautions are put in place to ensure your Will would be followed correctly. Working with an experienced solicitor vastly reduces the likelihood of your Will being found to be invalid.
During the process of making a Will, you would need to make decisions about two key points;
Who you would like to inherit your estate (which would include any property, financial assets and personal belongings).
Who you would like to be responsible for carrying out these wishes and administering your estate.
Your solicitor would then put together a clear legal document that would set out these wishes clearly, with no room for interpretation.
The most common reason for a Will to be considered invalid is in cases where it has not been signed correctly. Your solicitor will help to avoid any uncertainty in this respect by ensuring everything is done in the proper way.
One of the most important factors in signing your Will is making sure that it has been properly witnessed. This is when two other people sign the document after you to confirm that they have seen you sign and that you did so of your own free will.
If you’re able to sign your Will at your solicitor’s office, your solicitor and another colleague will usually act as witnesses themselves. If you’re unable to get to the office, your solicitor will give very clear instructions on how to ensure your will is signed and witnessed properly at home.
Please do remember that your witness shouldn’t be anyone who is mentioned in your Will. Once someone has witnessed a Will, they are no longer able to benefit from it.
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The government have responded to this challenging situation by temporarily allowing wills to be witnessed over video link software. Though this law will not come into play until September 2020, it will be backdated to 31st January 2020. This means that any wills that were witnessed over video call during this time would be considered valid.
It’s important to note that wills should still be witnessed in person wherever possible. However, this law change has been established for the benefit of those who are shielding or self-isolating.
The new rules will remain in place until January 2022, unless the government deems it necessary to shorten or extend the legislation period.
What else do you need to do to make sure your Will is valid?
Signing or witnessing your Will incorrectly aren’t the only things that could make your Will invalid.
You should also be aware that other life events could render your Will null and void. For example, getting married automatically cancels any Will that was made prior to the event (unless very specific wording relating to the marriage in question has been included).
Along these same lines, a divorce would also affect your Will. Though it wouldn’t cancel the whole document, it would mean that your former spouse was no longer entitled to inherit or act as an executor.
What should you do if you’re not sure your Will is valid?
If you have any concerns about the validity of your Will, we recommend that you speak to a specialist solicitor. They will be able to review your Will, along with your current circumstances, and advise on whether there are likely to be any issues.
It’s wise to ask a solicitor to review your Will every few years to ensure there are no matters of concern and that you have taken all appropriate precautions to safeguard your estate on behalf of your loved ones.
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