By having a Will you are planning what happens to your possessions when you pass away, and ensuring that all you leave behind those where you wish.
However, if your Will has been done incorrectly and does not meet legal requirements, it could fail and everything you leave behind may end up somewhere you did not wish.
When you write a Will it must meet certain legal criteria for it to be valid:
- It must be in writing; his also includes typed up versions
- It must be signed by the person making the will, known as the testator, in the presence of two witnesses
- The two witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of the testator
- The testator must be over 18
- The testator must be of sound mind
These criteria make up the legal requirements, but there are also other rules that should be followed. If you are leaving a gift to someone they should not witness the signing of the Will, nor should their spouses or civil partners. Although the Will will be legally valid, the gift will be invalid and they will not receive it.
As well as the legal requirements and rules it also needs to be considered that the will must be made voluntarily, otherwise it may be challenged on the basis that it was written under the influence of someone else.
If a Will is found to be invalid, the estate shall be distributed according to the testator’s last valid Will, if there is one, or the Rules of Intestacy if one cannot be found. Under the Rules of Intestacy any spouse or civil partner of the testator Will inherit the entire estate.
If the testator had children, the spouse or civil partner will inherit the first £250,000 as well as all the personal belongings. The remaining estate is halved, with the spouse receiving half and the rest divided equally between the children. If there is no spouse or civil partner the children will inherit the estate equally.
If the testator dies without a spouse, civil partner or children, close relatives will inherit the estate in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy.
It is important that your Will is written so that it meets all the legal requirements as well as ensuring your wishes are respected, as far as legally possible. It is therefore recommended that an expert practitioner drafts a well-structured and thought-out will, that clearly sets out your wishes.