COVID-19: a surge in Wills but are they valid?
We recently reported on the rising number of people preparing new Wills in light of the COVID-19 pandemic (read here). Having a carefully drafted Will is important for making sure your estate passes to your desired beneficiaries after your death. While many people instruct solicitors to draft their Wills, as a result of the Government advice on social distancing and self-isolation, it is almost inevitable that some people will attempt to prepare a homemade Will.
Aside from the potential missed financial benefits that can be gained from proper property succession and inheritance tax planning through a solicitor, there are other risks associated with preparing a homemade Will without the input of a solicitor.
Generally speaking, a Will is not valid unless:
- The testator is at least 18 years old;
- The testator made the Will freely, without undue influence or fraud;
- The testator had the requisite mental capacity;
- It is in writing;
- The testator intended to create a Will; and
- It is signed and witnessed in accordance with the requirements of the Wills Act 1837.
Preparing a Will without a solicitor’s assistance can run the risk that these formalities are not met, which could render the Will invalid.
There are additional steps that can also be taken by a solicitor to protect the Will from other types of claim. For example, careful preparation of the clauses within the Will, keeping a well organised and detailed Will file, which includes complete details of instructions received, detailed attendance notes, letter(s) of wishes and, if necessary, obtaining expert input on the testator’s capacity can help protect the Will from claims grounded in undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity.
If you would like to prepare a Will and are concerned about how to do this during the current COVID-19 crisis, please contact our private wealth team on 01892 765 435.
If you have concerns about the validity of a Will, please contact our disputes team on 01892 506 167.