Will may not be valid even if written out correctly

World News

People have been urged to check their will is valid as the vital document may not be binding even if it has been written out.

An individual’s will is an important document to make sure their estate is divided as they wish.

The requirements for a will to be valid are set out in the Wills Act of 1837, detailing it must be in writing and signed by the testator – the one making the will – or by another person on behalf of the testator.

The will must also be signed before two adult witnesses and these two witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator.

During the COVID-19 pandemic with social distancing rules, the legislation was changed so this could take place using video conferencing.

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Rafael Singer, senior associate for Hodge Jones & Allen, urged individuals to make sure they follow these procedures or their will may not be valid.

He explained: “If these requirements are not met, then a will is not usually valid. Copies of unsigned wills can be put to probate if it can be proven that the testator had not changed their mind since making the draft will, although these grants of probate are limited and are not valid if a later will is found.”

When a person dies, If a will is found to not be valid, then a previous will set out by the individual will be carried out instead.

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If a person does not have a will, they will have died intestate, meaning only close relations will be able to inherit their estate.

Wills can be challenged for several reasons including:

  • The testator not having testamentary capacity. For example, they did not understand the implications of making a will or the effect it would have
  • The testator did not have “knowledge and approval” of the contents of the will
  • The testator was unduly influenced or signed the will under coercion
  • The will was forged or obtained by fraud.

One reason it’s important for a person to have a will is so they can arrange their estate to be tax efficient, especially for inheritance tax purposes.

This is a 40 percent tax that a person has to pay on any total assets inherited from an individual, above the value of £325,000 from a single person, or above £650,000 from a couple.

People sometimes put their assets into a trust to avoid inheritance tax, although they can be complicated to set up, so it’s important to talk to a financial adviser about how to do this.

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