You can make your Will on any scrap of paper, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea! There are certain rules that you have to bear in mind when writing your Will so that it isn’t invalid. If you make a Will and it’s not legally valid, on your death your estate will be divided according to certain rules that may not be what you wanted. Take a look at this article for all the information you need about how to make sure your Will is valid.
Requirements for a legally valid Will
In a nutshell, the requirements to make a valid Will are set out below.
You must be:
- over 18 (over 12 in Scotland); and
- of sound mind, i.e. fully aware of the type of document being written or signed, and aware of the value of your property and the identity of the people you wish to inherit your property.
Your Will must be:
- in writing;
- made voluntarily without pressure from any other person; and
- signed by you in the presence of two witnesses in England and Wales, or one witness in Scotland.
At the beginning of your Will, it should state that all previous Wills are revoked. If you do have an earlier Will, you should destroy it to prevent any confusion.
Your Will must be signed by you in the presence of two independent witnesses (one in Scotland). The witnesses must be over 18 (over 16 in Scotland). These could be neighbours, colleagues or friends. The witnesses need to watch you sign your Will. Then the two witnesses must each sign the Will after you. They don’t need to read its contents. A blind person can’t be a witness to a Will as they must be able to see you sign your Will. As well as their signature, your witnesses will need to add details about their name, address and occupation. If there is ever any problem with your Will in the future, your witness can testify that they watched you sign your Will. So, it is important that your witnesses can be traced.
A witness, or the spouse/civil partner of a witness, can’t be a beneficiary of your Will. This means that a witness must not stand to inherit anything from your Will. If either of these people do witness your Will, they will lose the benefit of any gifts, money or property left to them in the Will, but the Will itself will remain legally valid. This means that your intentions will not be carried out and the outcome could be very different from the one you imagined when you made your Will. It’s best that the beneficiaries aren’t even in the same room when a Will is signed and witnessed.
An executor (someone you have named in the Will to manage your estate) or their spouse can safely act as a witness to your Will – unless they are also a beneficiary, in which case another witness must be found.
As soon as the Will is signed and witnessed, it is complete. A Will remains valid even if a witness dies after the Will has been made.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, temporary changes were made to the rules for witnessing Wills. For more information see Can you make a Will by video?.
Signing your Will
If you can’t sign your Will due to a physical illness, it can be signed on your behalf; however, you must be in the same room and it should be signed on your instructions. Also, you must have the mental capacity to make the Will, otherwise it will be invalid.
Any mark that you intend to be your signature is enough for the purposes of signing your Will. Even a thumb print could be sufficient to act as a signature if you have the intention to use it as a signature. This mark still needs to be made in the presence of two independent witnesses.
In Scotland, only one witness is needed and the maker of the Will should sign the bottom of each page. The witness should see you sign the document or hear you acknowledge your signature. The witness should sign their name on the last page of the Will and should put their full name and address and the date and place of signing. They should also add their name and address. A witness should not be a beneficiary or an executor appointed by the Will.
Although your Will is legally valid even if it is not dated, it is recommended that it includes the date on which it is signed. This is to avoid any problems with implementing the instructions in your Will. It needs to be clear which is your latest Will and without a date that’s not always possible.
You should make sure that nothing is crossed out or amended in your Will. If you want to change your Will, it’s best to make a new Will.
Also, don’t leave any blank spaces in your Will. Make sure that each page is numbered to prevent anyone tampering with it.
Service personnel – privileged Wills
The requirements for a valid Will are less stringent for service personnel on active service. These are called privileged Wills – this is an informal Will that is valid even though it doesn’t meet all the formal requirements. They can be made at short notice, for example, when you are about to put your life at risk.
A cost-effective DIY solution: Lawpack’s Last Will & Testament Kit
For nearly 30 years, Lawpack has provided a cost-effective, DIY way of making your Will. Lawpack’s Last Will & Testament Kit gives you the confidence and the tools to follow straightforward steps to make a valid Will without the need for legal advice.
Lawpack’s Last Will & Testament Kit has been approved by lawyers and will provide you with all the information you need to make a valid Will. There is a step-by-step solicitor-approved Guidance manual on writing a Will and a choice of three ready-to-complete forms for use in England & Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.
This DIY Kit is a good option for those who want to write their own Will and need a bit of extra legal guidance, but can’t afford to use a lawyer to help them write their Will.