A will may be invalid and subject to challenge if it does not accurately reflect the true intentions of the person who made it or if it was improperly executed. Our guide takes you through some pertinent points in respect of the Wills Act 1837.
Wills Act 1837
When contesting a will, the first step is to ascertain a will’s validity and to check to see if it has been properly completed. Since a person’s entire estate, possessions, and goods are ultimately distributed through a will, it must meet several requirements of the Wills Act 1837 to be valid. The first condition is that the testator must be at least 18 years old when signing the will.
For a will to be valid it must meet these requirements:
- Be composed in writing and signed by the person.
- The will’s maker must have signed it with the intent to create a legal testament.
- The will maker’s signature must be witnessed by two witnesses. The person must either sign in front of the witnesses or confirm to them that they are witnessing the testator’s signature.
- To create a legally binding document, the witness then either signs after witnessing the will-maker sign or signs knowing that the signature is the will-maker’s and that the will-maker did sign the document.
To learn more about these requirements keep reading.
Wills Act 1837: Has the Will Been Written by the Person Signing it?
A will in any format—handwritten, typewritten, or printed—is acceptable. Paper, cloth, or almost anything else is acceptable as long as it can be produced for a Probate Registry, as there is no specific material required either.
The person who is writing the will also need to sign it. This signature serves to authenticate the will and confirm that its contents line up with the maker’s intentions. Any form of the signer’s signature is acceptable as long as it conveys its meaning. Their initial seal, a scrawl, or a personal stamp may be accepted as legal signatures, subject to certain criteria.
What Happens if the Individual is Unable to Physically Sign?
It is possible that the person that the testator is unable to sign the will, for example, if they are blind or paralysed. In these situations, a will may still be validly signed by a third party on behalf of the person. Legal counsel should be sought, though, as there must be no doubt that the signature was produced at the maker of the will’s direction.
What is the Person Making the Will’s Intention?
The will’s maker’s signature serves as proof of their intent. A will had to be signed “at the foot of each page and at the end of the will” for deaths that occurred before January 1, 1983. However, this is no longer the situation. Evidence that the person who signed the will be intended for it to be carried out is what is needed.
A person’s signature on a will must always be witnessed by two people who are not also beneficiaries for it to be considered valid. The need for authenticity is exceptional because the person making the will is distributing their entire estate. The necessity that both witnesses be present when the person whose will it is signed or acknowledges their signature is the most important one. It’s crucial to remember that the witnesses are not obligated to read or acknowledge the will’s contents. The witnesses’ presence serves only to confirm that the signature on the document is their signature. Therefore, it makes no difference whether the witnesses believed the document they saw was a contract or another type of legal document.
The Premise of Due-Execution
If a will appears to have been properly executed on the surface, it will be assumed to have been properly executed. The presumption of due execution has been and remains vigorously applied by courts. Strong evidence is needed to challenge a will on the grounds of improper execution; otherwise, the court will apply the presumption.
How Van Eaton Solicitors Can Help
If you have read our Wills Act 1837 guide and believe a will to be invalid, it is crucial to act and seek legal counsel as soon as you can if you have good reason to believe that a will is invalid. To stop a Grant of Probate from being issued and the distribution of the estate’s assets, you might want to file a caveat with the Probate Registry. If you are seeking advice on how to contest a will, contact our probate dispute solicitors in London online or by phone at 0208 769 6739 or complete the online form. We will respond promptly to your inquiry.