| Do holographic wills need to be witnessed or notarised?
All wills need to be witnessed in accordance with the Wills Act 1837. This means, with some exceptions, that you must sign your will in the presence of two independent witnesses. They must then sign in the presence of the person making the will. There is no need for to get a will notarised if you have signed it in England or Wales.
| Can a holographic will be made void if a probate court is unable to determine whether the will was signed by the testator? What would be the time, cost and tax implications?
If a will, on the face of it, raises concerns about whether it was correctly executed, the Probate Registry will raise enquiries. This can lead to the need for evidence from the witnesses. Further, this can sometimes prompt disputes between parties who might benefit from the estate. The costs of an estate dispute can be significant, often becoming disproportionate in relation to the size of the actual estate. Delays can run into several years.
| What steps can you take if you believe a loved one’s will is fraudulent, or they have been coerced?
Get legal advice as soon as possible. The initial step is usually to put a block on the estate. It is often harder to deal with disputes ‘once the horse has bolted’ and everything has been distributed to beneficiaries.
| What added value can a solicitor provide when creating a will to help demonstrate a testator was of sound mind when written?
A solicitor who specialises in will writing will have expert knowledge of the necessary requirements to make a will. This includes the relevant test for mental capacity. If the solicitor has any concerns, or believes the estate is likely to be contentious, they can instruct an independent capacity assessor to carry out an assessment. Having a positive assessment of somebody’s capacity can make it much more difficult for somebody to challenge the validity of a will, often nipping claims in the bud before they get off the ground.
| Preparing a well-drafted will is not a simple process, especially when you consider the number of clauses needed to explain the powers and responsibilities of your trustees and executor. Mistakes can easily be made. What are the benefits of having regulated support when drafting a will compared to an unregulated service?
The obvious one is that they know what they are doing! A specialist solicitor will have the necessary training and experience of what is a complicated area of law which, very often, unregulated will writers simply don’t have. Then there are other benefits that aren’t so obvious including a solicitors requirement to carry insurance. People don’t often discover problems with wills until years after the person has made their will. If a regulated solicitor has made the will, there will be insurance in place to cover any potential negligence. With an unregulated will writer, it’s unlikely there will be anybody for disappointed beneficiaries top pursue.
If you would like some more information about making a will, or more generally about holographic wills, we can help. Call us on 0800 988 7756 for a FREE initial chat.