This week’s blog covers several questions that I am frequently asked by clients. I hope you find it useful.
‘How do I know my Will is valid?’
Section 9 of The Wills Act 1837 states:
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.
It is important also that the witnesses to the signing of the Will are not beneficiaries, or the spouse or partner of a beneficiary. I also ensure that executors do not act as witnesses.
So you can make your own Will, as long as these rules are followed. However, a Will that is unclear or that contains mistakes, will not be valid either.
‘How long does my Will stay valid for?’
Your Will is valid for the rest of your life, with only the following 2 exceptions:
- If you make a subsequent Will it will supercede the old one.
- If you deliberately destroy the Will
I have recently heard reports of older people being told that they need to change their Will after a certain period of time, or because of Brexit etc. These are all scams, and should be ignored.
‘Can I make any changes to my Will?’
You can make changes to your Will at any time during your life. While you are alive, your Will is changeable and private. When you die, your Will is fixed (unless there is an application to vary it withing 2 years of your death) and becomes a public document.
Reasons you definitely need to change your Will include:
- Your marriage, or entering into a civil partnership – unless the original Will was made in contemplation of that event
- Having another child who is not included in the original Will, and who you want to include as a beneficiary. Of course, many Wills state that assets ae to be left to “my children” which includes any born after the Will is signed.
- If you gain another asset that you want to leave to a specific beneficiary.
Reasons that you may want to change your Will include:
- If you divorce – your Will is then read as if your former spouse or civil partner died on the date that the marriage was dissolved. You may want to consider what this means for the Will, and you may want to make a new one.
- If your financial circumstances change. You may need to consider Inheritance Tax obligations.
- If you have a grandchild who you want to be a beneficiary of your Will.
- On the death of a beneficiary, if you have not made provision for a substitute beneficiary.
You do not need to change your Will in these circumstances:
- Change of address for yourself, executors or beneficiaries.
- Change of name for yourself, executors of beneficiaries
- If you gain assets that you are happy to be distributed as per your original Will.
- If you no longer own an asset mentioned in your Will.
If you are unsure, please give me a call.
‘Can I make my own Will?‘
We’ve looked at DIY Wills in depth a few times before and truthfully, we’d strongly advise against this option. If you make any mistakes whilst writing your Will and you don’t realise before you’re able to write a new one, there could be questions regarding your intentions or problems executing your Will when you’ve died. This may result in your estate not being distributed how you would have liked which could easily cause unnecessary problems and upset for your loved ones during what will undoubtedly be a difficult time.
Given the complexity of modern families, a simple or DIY Will may not be suitable. We always say there is no one-size fits-all when it comes to Wills so we recommend in all cases to seek the advice and the services of a professional to ensure that your wishes are correctly recorded.
If you want to talk to me about your Will then please contact me on the details below.