Andrew Wilkinson, Partner and Head of Inheritance Disputes at Lime Solicitors, shares his advice on will writing including the use of video wills.
It’s a scary thought that your will could be invalid, but it happens often, especially when an individual hasn’t received legal advice. Equally the temporary legalisation of witnessing wills via video has thrown-up further opportunities for this process to go wrong. If your will is invalid, this could mean your loved ones, friends or family, charities or other individuals may not benefit from your last wishes. This may also lead to legal squabbles over entitlement. Although the rules around making a will may seem cumbersome, they are in the best interests of the will maker and their beneficiaries.
The common mistakes that can lead to your will being invalid or disputed over include:
How to avoid legal disputes over your will
It is worth obtaining a letter from your GP to state that you have the mental capacity to sign a will if you have an illness or are elderly (even if this does not impact your mental capacity at the point of signing). Will makers can put together a letter of wishes or note attached to the will which detail why certain family members did not benefit. Additionally, it’s worth considering a no contest clause in your will which means a beneficiary could lose their whole inheritance if they unsuccessfully challenge your will in court. You should always seek legal advice on what steps you should take to safeguard your will, as a professional will be able to take into consideration your own particular circumstances.
Despite video wills being legal until 31 January 2022, the government advises that physical witnessing of wills should remain as the norm, unless the individual and their witnesses are unable to be in the same room (for example if they are vulnerable or shielding because of the Covid-19 pandemic). This is mainly because executing a will via video can make it much harder for the solicitor to tell if an individual is being influenced by another, maybe from off camera.
Recordings and notes should be taken of the will signing and witnesses should be able to see on the camera the front of the will, and signing page, then the physical signing and dating of the will. The will should be given to each witness and the same procedure should be followed. Remember that the will is only valid once it has been signed by all parties. Additionally, if you have the ability to do so at a later point, it is worth re-signing the will in the physical presence of your solicitor and witnesses. This could avoid any legal challenges over whether the temporary laws were followed accurately.
Using a solicitor or professional will writer can help you avoid making mistakes when it comes to drawing up your will. Following the legal rules will help avoid tensions and disputes between your loved ones and can ensure your wishes are carried out when you have passed.
Andrew Wilkinson is a Partner and Head of Inheritance Disputes at Lime Solicitors.