As a firm specialising in contested probate matters, we spend alot of time looking very carefully at wills and how they are executed.
Rules on Wills : what the law states
The rules governing the signing of wills, are governed by the Wills Act 1837, which states the following :-
No will shall be valid unless—
(a)it is in writing, and signed by the testator, or by some other person in his presence and by his direction; and
(b)it appears that the testator intended by his signature to give effect to the will; and
(c)the signature is made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time; and
(d)each witness either—
(i)attests and signs the will; or
(ii)acknowledges his signature, in the presence of the testator (but not necessarily in the presence of any other witness),
but no form of attestation shall be necessary.
Issues with Wills
Despite the law and rules being clear and straightforward, we unfortunately see wills that sadly fail as these golden rules are often overlooked.The starting point are the witnesses. They must not be the beneficiaries under the will, if they are the gifts to the witnesses fail. Unusually, the will itself remains valid, this means that what is known as a partial intestacy can arise, resulting in the failed gifts ( to the witnesses ) being subject to the intestacy rules unless the will includes a specific provision for this.
Common other problems we regularly see in wills are as follows :-
- the will is not signed in the correct place by the testator ie. immediately above the witnesses
- there is no date
- the signature on the will is frail
- the original will is lost and only a copy can be found
Call our ‘problems with wills’ helpline on 0845 568 4000 or make a free claim enquiry.