People do not like thinking about death and the effects it has on those they leave behind, but it is something that has to be faced eventually. It is natural that you should wish your property and assets to pass on your death to whomever you choose. By making a will you can ensure that your assets go to those you wish should have them.
There are some assets that cannot be given away in your will (eg. property you hold in joint names usually passes automatically to the other joint owner) but most of your property can be dealt with by a will.
What is a will?
It is a legal declaration of how you wish to dispose of your property on your death. In order for it to be valid it must comply with certain requirements.
Who can make a will?
Generally speaking, anyone over the age of 18 and of sound mind. However:
- It is possible for members of the armed forces to make a Will under the age of 18 but legal advice should be sought in these circumstances
- Under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1983, the Court of Protection may approve the making of a will, or a codicil to a will for someone who is mentally incapable of doing so themselves.
Guidance about how a mentally incapable person can make a will or codicil
What makes a will valid?
- It must be in writing, should appoint someone to carry out the instructions (an executor) and dispose of possessions/property
- It must be signed by the person making the will (the testator), or signed on the testator’s behalf in his or her presence and by his or her direction. This must be done in the presence of two witnesses who then sign the will in the presence of the testator.
Who can be a witness?
- Is not blind
- Is capable of understanding the nature and effect of what they are doing
However, a witness should not be:
- A beneficiary in the will; or
- Married to, or be the civil partner of, a beneficiary
In these circumstances the will remains a valid and legal document, but the gift to the beneficiary cannot be paid.
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