There are a wide range of situations in which a Will can be invalid. By being aware of what these are, you can make sure that your own Will is sound and that your estate can be passed on to your choice of beneficiaries as you wish when the time comes.
If a Will is found to be invalid after someone’s death or there is a question over its validity, it can result in a legal dispute. Contentious probate cases are notoriously difficult to resolve and often lengthy and expensive. The estate’s executors are bound to defend legal action against the estate, which could drain it of funds.
The following are some ways in which a Will could be invalid:
- The Will has not been correctly signed
- The Will has not been properly witnessed
- The person making the Will did not have the mental capacity to understand the implications
- The person making the Will was subjected to undue influence or coercion by another
- The Will has been altered or damaged
- The Will is unclear or ambiguous
- The Will is a forgery
- The person making the Will did not approve the contents of the Will
- The contents of the Will were not what the deceased intended to happen
- The testator has married since making the Will
- A later Will has been made, revoking all earlier Wills
Signing your Will and having it witnessed
A Will should be in writing and should usually be signed by the testator (the person making the Will), unless they need someone else to sign on their behalf. The signature should be made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who should also sign the Will. Your witnesses should not be beneficiaries or the spouse or civil partner of a beneficiary or the gift to them will fail.
To make a Will, you need to be aged 18 or older and have testamentary capacity. This means that you should be able to understand that you are making a Will, the extent of the assets you own and the implications of the decisions you have made about who will inherit your estate.
Undue influence or coercion
Your Will should be made by you and on your instruction, free from undue influence or coercion from another person.
Undue influence or coercion may be suspected by family members where someone inherits unexpectedly, where a Will is suddenly changed in someone’s favour or an inheritance is left to someone who has recently become a strong presence in the testator’s life.
Ensuring your Will is valid
Having your Will drawn up by an expert Wills solicitor can help ensure it is valid when the time comes. They will be able to ensure that it is correctly drafted, signed and witnessed. They will also be able to discuss issues such as capacity and undue influence.
If a dispute arises in the future, they will have records of conversations they had and instructions they were given to support the making of the Will.
If you would like to speak to one of our expert estate planners, ring us on 01634 353 658 or email us at [email protected]