One of the main questions we are asked is how to sign a Will to ensure it is legally valid. In England and Wales, the law about signing a Will goes back almost 200 years to the Wills Act 1837.
The basic requirement for making a valid Will is as follows:
- The Will is signed by the Testator (the person making the Will)
- In the presence of two witnesses who are both present at the same time
- The witnesses sign the Will in your presence
Who can sign a Will
The person making the Will must:
- Be over 18 years old
- Have testamentary capacity also known as being of sound mind. This means they must have the ability to understand the extent of their assets (what they own), who they should consider when making their Will (e.g. their family) and understand the nature and effect of the Will (e.g. the contents of the Will).
- Make the will voluntarily (of their own free will) without pressure from anybody else
Can a person with a learning disability, illness or dementia make a Will?
Yes they can provided they meet the required legal test. Wills made in these circumstances can be open to challenge and it is therefore important to take precautions to ensure that a person’s wishes take effect. We recommend a solicitor is instructed to prepare the Will to avoid any difficulties at a later stage.
Minimum age for witnesses
Witnesses must be aged over 18.
How many people are needed to witness a Will?
There need to be two witnesses.
Who can witness a Will?
Anyone aged over 18 that is not blind. Executors can witness Wills. Beneficiaries can also witness Wills but if they do then they will lose the gift left to them in the Will and will no longer be beneficiaries. This also applies to spouses of beneficiaries. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your witnesses are not named in the Will and are not related to anyone named in the Will.
Dating the Will
A Will does not need to include a date but it is a good idea to date the Will to avoid any confusion over when it was signed.
The contents of the Will
Witnesses do not need to know what is in the Will before they witness it.
Is a Will valid if the witness dies?
Yes, the will is still valid even if the witness has died.
Tips to ensure the Will is validly signed
- The Will must be in writing
- Everyone that signs the Will should write clearly and in ink. Do not use pencil.
- Ensure the witnesses are over 18, are not named in the Will and are not related to you or anyone named in the Will
- The witnesses should sign the Will and include their full name, address and occupation to make it easier to locate them if there are any questions about the signing of the Will
- Date the Will to avoid any confusion as to when it was signed
- Do not attach anything to the Will including paperclips or staples as this could make it invalid
The only way to ensure a Will meets your wishes and is correctly signed is to instruct a solicitor. You can read more about our Will service here.