People often ask me whether they need a solicitor to make a will. While you can certainly make a will without a solicitor, the risks are high. A solicitor will make sure that all bases are covered: that your estate is protected as well as possible from avoidable Inheritance Tax; that your assets go to the right people; and that any charities you wish to benefit will do so.
Perhaps most importantly, however, your solicitor will make sure that your will is valid. If you make your own will, there is a risk that you miss something vital, making the whole thing invalid. This will mean that your estate will be dealt with under the Intestacy Rules or under a previous will, and that your wishes set out in your will will not be adhered to.
Executing a will
For a will to be valid, it must be validly executed. This means that you must sign your will in the presence of two witnesses who are present at the same time. The witnesses must then sign the will in your presence. A witness shouldn’t be someone who will benefit from the will or they will forfeit any benefit. Also, it is better not to have a family member as a witness.
Executing a will while social distancing or self isolating
With government guidelines on self-isolating and social distancing, executing a will is trickier. The law provides that the two witnesses must be in ‘your presence’ which isn’t exactly in keeping with current guidelines.
As it stands, it is not possible to witness a will being signed via video conferencing. Further, your signature must be a physical signature, rather than electronic.
We are therefore having to find ways of having wills executed whilst trying to keep contact to a minimum, such as signing wills outdoors so that those signing can be in each other’s presence but still maintain a safe distance.
The Law Society has approached the Ministry of Justice about changing the way we execute wills, bearing in mind the current environment. We will keep our blog updated with any changes.
Improperly executed wills
If your will is not properly executed, it is likely to be invalid. This means that, after your death, a previous valid will may be considered. If not, you will die intestate. Any invalid wills will not be taken into account at all.
The Intestacy Rules set out how estates will be divided up if someone dies without leaving a valid will. As the rules are strict, it means that people that you might have wanted to benefit are actually left out entirely. For example, unmarried partners will not inherit at all.
If you think that your will may not have been properly executed, a specialist wills solicitor will be able to advise on the best way to rectify this.
If you are considering making a will, we highly recommend that you use a specialist wills and probate solicitor. Call our team on 0800 988 7756 for a FREE initial discussion. We can set up a telephone or video conference in place of a face-to-face meeting.