As a Wills specialist, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is ‘how do I make a will’? However, by this, most people really mean one of three things; 1) what wording do I need to use? 2) Can I type my will or does it have to be hand written? 3) How do I sign my will?
I’ll briefly go through all three questions below.
Many people worry about how to word their will. The major worry is whether any special legal wording needs to be used to make the will valid. This dilemma was faced by Mr Dickens in 1904. Although he knew who he wanted to leave his Estate to (money, house etc), he was unsure how to word the will to ensure his wishes were carried out. After much deliberation, Mr Dickens decided to use the wording ‘all for mother’. That’s it. They are the only words contained in his will apart from the signatures. It may surprise many people to know that this wording is valid. This is because the wording is clear and unambiguous. Everything is to go to ‘mother’. Bizarrely, in this case Mr Dickens actually meant his wife rather than his mother! However, it was clear from evidence provided to the court that he referred to his wife as ‘mother’. The most important point to remember with the wording of a will, is to make it clear who you are leaving your Estate to. For example, ‘All to my brother’ would also be valid if you only had one brother but not if you had more than one (unless it could be proved beyond doubt that you only meant a particular one).
Once the wording has been decided, the next question is how to record it. Does a will need to be handwritten or can it be typed? If so, is there a special font or font size that must be used? This is the type of situation Mr Barnes found himself in. Mr Barnes deliberated for several days as it was a very important decision and he wanted to ensure he made the correct choice. After many days and countless sleepless nights, he had finally had enough, he knew he must make a decision. To be safe and ensure his will would definitely be valid, he decided the only sensible thing to do was write his will on…an empty eggshell. Yes, you read that correctly, he wrote his will on the shell of an egg. Understandably, Mr Barnes’ relatives were concerned about the validity of this ‘will’ and hatched a plan to declare the ‘will’ invalid. However, the Court decided that a will can be written on any material and will not declare a will invalid simply due to it having been written on an unusual material. To the court’s undoubted relief, the rumours that Mr Barnes had written another will on a chicken the same day turned out to be unfounded, therefore sparing the court the arduous task of deciding which one came first.
By now, you will have decided how to word your will (clearly and unambiguously) and how to record it (typed or handwritten on any type of material). The final point to consider is: How do I sign my will?
Most people are aware that their will must be witnessed i.e. that someone must watch them sign their will. However, many people are unsure of the correct way to do this. To ensure your will is valid, you must sign your will in front of two witnesses that are present at the same time, who are of sound mind and who must not be named in your will or be married to a person named in the will. You must sign your will and your witnesses must also sign below your name. However, despite the list of requirements, did you know that witnesses do not need to be over 18? Provided a witness has sufficient maturity, they can act as a witness. For example a 16 year old has successfully witnessed a will. Perhaps the most surprising fact of all is that a witness does not actually need to watch you sign your will, provided you acknowledge that the signature on the will is yours.
To successfully sign your will, you must:
1) Sign your will (preferably at the bottom) in the presence of
2) Two witnesses that are both present at the same time
3) Who are of sound mind (i.e. not suffering from any mental illnesses)
4) Who are of sufficient maturity
5) and are unrelated to anyone named in the will
6) Both witnesses must then sign your will, below where you have signed.
1) Witnesses should both be over 18 to avoid the need to prove maturity
2) Both witnesses watch you sign your will
3) Both witnesses should include their full address and occupation (to help identify them)
So in summary, you may write your will on an eggshell, leave it all for your ‘mother’ who is really your wife and have your will witnessed by a 16 year old who is looking the other way when you sign. However, we do not recommend you follow the above method! Instead, we advise you to allow us to prepare your will for you so all you need to do is decide who you want to leave your Estate to. We’ll take care of the rest! Empty eggshells optional.