How do I ensure that my will is valid?

There are many reasons to make a will. Making a legally binding will means that you can determine what happens to your estate when you pass away. It can also minimise the risk of a contentious probate dispute such as a will dispute claim.

A person making a will (a testator) must be at least 18 years old to make a valid will. They must make their will voluntarily.

The testator also has to have testamentary capacity (i.e. they must be of sound mind).

Making a valid will

The testator must comply with the provisions of Section 9 of the Wills Act (1837) to make a valid and legally binding will.

If the formalities of Section 9 are not complied with then the will may be held to be invalid.  This could mean that the testator’s assets would be distributed in a way that is against their wishes.

If the correct legal steps are not taken, this could mean that one of the grounds for challenging a will are provided and a will dispute or inheritance dispute may arise.

In order to avoid a will dispute and to make sure that a will is valid, the following steps must be followed:

  • The will must be in writing.
  • The will must be signed by the testator (although any mark made by the testator will validate the will as long as the testator intended the mark to be their signature).
  • The signing of the will by the testator must be witnessed by two witnesses. Both witnesses must actually watch the testator signing the will. If this doesn’t happen, this could provide third parties with one of the grounds for challenging a will. Indeed, the witnesses will have to attest and verify their presence by signing the will. The witnesses don’t need to know the contents of the will but they must be aware that it is a will.
  • Anyone can witness the signing of a will although they must be at least 18 years old and not blind. Someone who is named as a beneficiary of a will must not be a witness and it is important to avoid using close relatives as witnesses. It is best to use completely independent witnesses; perhaps neighbours or work colleagues.

You can write a will yourself, but in order to ensure that you make a valid will, it is best to obtain legal advice. Our contentious probate solicitors frequently see DIY wills that have gone wrong and have led to costly will dispute litigation.

The best approach is to ask a solicitor or suitably qualified professional to draft your will to ensure that your will is valid and interpreted in the way you intended. Small mistakes can be costly and can cause stress and aggravation for your loved ones for many years after you have died.

If you believe that you have grounds to challenge a will or if you are in a position where you wish to discuss a will dispute, probate dispute or inheritance dispute, speak to our specialist will disputes solicitors on 01902 424927 for an initial free consultation. We can often act for clients on a no win no fee basis.

Alternatively, please e-mail us at contentiousprobate@georgegreen.co.uk providing a brief summary of the issues you wish to discuss with us, along with your contact details.

We have a dedicated practice team of contentious probate solicitors, covering all areas of the UK (with offices near Birmingham and in Wolverhampton) who are experienced in dealing with all types of contentious probate matters, including challenging a will and estate disputes.