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It’s pretty hard to write a Will. Well, it’s not hard, but it’s quite an intimidating task and it’s easy to put it off. Writing a Will is basically facing up to your own mortality.
That’s a dramatic way of putting it, but it’s true really. We all know that we’re gonna die, but mostly that’s just a vague concept you have in the back of your head. When you write a Will, it makes death seem more real.
Acknowledging your own mortality isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world, so the last thing you want to do is make it all worthless by ending up with an invalid Will. But don’t worry – this article will talk you through what you need to do. We’ll talk about what makes a Will invalid, what happens if you’ve got an invalid Will, and how you can make sure that everything’s up to standard.
What makes an invalid Will?
A Will is probably the most important document you’ll ever deal with, so you want to make sure that you get it right.
Your Will needs to be valid in the eyes of the law – it is a complicated legal document, after all. You don’t want to knock one up on back of a scruffy old envelope. You can try, but it probably won’t go well. There’re certain words, phrases and conditions that need to be met. Let’s go through them.
Your Will’s invalid if it isn’t:
- In writing
- Witnessed and signed by 2 valid witnesses – the witnesses (or their spouses) can’t be beneficiaries of your Will.
- Written when you have mental capacity – you need to be in a sound state of mind (meaning you know what you’re doing and understand what it means).
- Written without mental duress – it needs to be your voluntary choice. If you’re being forced, threatened or coerced into making a Will, it won’t be valid.
- The original, unaltered copy – you can’t make changes to a Will you’ve written – you’ll have to either use a codicil or write a new Will. You can make photocopies of your Will, but the Executor’ll need the original Will to distribute your stuff.
If your Will doesn’t meet every single one of the those criteria it’ll be invalid. An invalid Will’s about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.
I should mention here, too – marriages overwrite any existing Wills. If you’ve got a Will in place before you get married, once you’re married that Will’s invalid. There are ways around this (carefully worded clauses in the Will: in contemplation of a marriage to…) but generally it’s easier, and better, to just make a new Will after marriage.
What happens with an invalid Will?
To put it bluntly, it won’t be used. Your wishes won’t be carried out. The courts won’t recognise an invalid Will.
What happens next depends on if you have any previous (valid) Wills or not. If you do, then the latest valid Will you have will be referred to. If you don’t have any older Wills, then your stuff’s distributed according to the rules of intestacy.
The rules of intestacy are the rules that’re followed if someone dies without a Will. It’s basically just a list of your family members, ranked in order of traditional ‘closeness’ (starting with spouse, then children, then grandchildren, then parents, siblings, etc.). They just work down the list to find your closest living relative and that’s who inherits your stuff. That’s a basic explanation, but you can read an in-depth summary of the rules of intestacy here.
Whatever happens though, the chances are it won’t be your wishes. It’ll either revert to an old Will (which, I’m guessing, is old for a reason) or it’ll just follow the rules of intestacy, that don’t take personal circumstances into account. You just need to make sure that you don’t end up with an invalid Will.
How do I make sure my Will’s valid?
Right, so we’ve already established that an invalid Will is worthless. Now we need to establish how to make sure your Will’s valid.
Well, for starters, you avoid all the things we just spoke about that make an invalid Will. So, it needs to be written down (and have the correct phrasing). It needs to be signed and witnessed by 2 independent witnesses (who aren’t inheriting from the Will). You need full mental capacity when you write it, and you can’t be threatened or forced into making it. You can’t make any alterations to the Will after it’s finished. Oh, and you need to be over 18, too (unless you’re in the military, where separate rules apply).
I mentioned this earlier, but it’s proper important so I’ll say it again – you need to keep in mind that a Will’s a complex legal document. It’s the way that you make sure your nearest and dearest are looked after when you’re gone. You need to make sure you get it right – you can’t afford to get it wrong. You don’t want to leave your family in the lurch over the sake of an invalid Will.
Can I write my own Will?
Technically, yep. Whether you should or not’s a completely different matter, though.
I’ve written an entire blog about why writing your own Will might not be the best idea, but in short it’s just too risky. Wills need to be carefully drafted, they need to cover certain points, and they need to be worded in a specific way. You could try write one yourself, but unless you know exactly what you’re doing you’ll probably slip up somewhere and end up with an invalid Will.
So what’s the best way to make sure my Will’s valid?
The best way to make sure you don’t end up with an invalid Will is to use a professional Will-writer or a solicitor. You need to use someone who’s been specially trained in Will writing; someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. Someone like… Vital Documents. Who saw that coming?
No, but seriously. All of our Will writers are professionally trained members of The Society of Will Writers, and they pass exams multiple times a year just to keep up to date with the latest rules and regulations. Backed by Martin Lewis, membership into The Society of Will Writers is one of the things you should look for when choosing a Will writer – it means they’re a legitimate company full of legitimate Will writers, it means they’ve got indemnity insurance, and it means that they’re held to a code of practice.
If you’re wanting to make sure your Will’s valid, just give us a shout. You can ring us on +44 (0)330 229 0331, drop us an email at email@example.com or arrange a call with us. We’ll make sure your Will’s fully functioning, valid, and that all your wishes will be carried out.