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Valid Wills: C-O-R-R-E-C-T? Find out what it needs to be…

It was originally thought that the late great singer Aretha Franklin had died without a Will following her battle with pancreatic cancer. However, it has been announced in recent news that three handwritten Wills have now been found following her death.

These are likely to be contested and may not be lawful under Michigan Law. But would these be lawful in this country and what makes a Will “valid”?

What is a Will?

In short, a Will is a legal document made by a person explaining how they want their money, possessions and property (also known as assets) to be dealt with when they die. A Will can also allow for a person to confirm their funeral wishes, pass their pets to another and name a guardian for any of their children under 18 when they die.

The person making the Will should name a person(s) they want to carry out these instructions once they have passed away. This chosen person(s) are known as the “Executor(s)”.

What are the requirements of a Valid Will in England and Wales?

In order to be valid, a Will must:

  • Be made by someone aged 18 or over;
  • Be in writing;
  • Be signed (or acknowledged) by you in the presence of two independent witnesses, who then add their signature;
  • Be made by a person who has the mental capacity and understanding as to what a Will does and the effect it has;
  • Be made voluntarily without pressure or undue influence from another person.

Can a Will be handwritten in England and Wales?

As stated in the criteria above, a Will must be “in writing” in order to be valid and therefore a handwritten Will would be considered valid if it complied with the other listed criteria.

It is unfortunately too frequently that homemade Wills are contested in court and therefore the source of much case law as they are often not clear enough and do not take into account factors that may change over time.

To avoid the situation of Aretha Franklin, it is recommended that a Will be typed to avoid ambiguity (and unclear handwriting) and that professional advice be sought to confirm the content of the Will, and whether the correct terminology has been used.

For further information on our Will drafting services please contact the Private Client Team at Hodge Jones and Allen Solicitors.