Will disputes often come at a significant cost, not just in monetary terms but also at the expense of family and other relationships. Here, Kelly Mills, Dispute Resolution Partner, outlines eight practical steps that you can take now, to prevent this happening:
- Make sure that you comply with the formalities in s9 of the Wills Act. For a Will to be valid it must be in writing; be signed by the person making the Will (known as the testator) or signed by someone else in the testator’s presence and by their direction; be clear that it is intended to be a Will; the signature must be made or acknowledged in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time; and each witness must sign the Will in the testator’s presence.
- Ask a GP or suitably qualified medical practitioner to provide a report or letter confirming your testamentary capacity. Capacity is one of the main grounds upon which Wills are challenged so if you think there may be questions raised over your capacity to make a Will, it is prudent to have it confirmed by a professional.
- Make sure you keep your Will somewhere safe and let loved one’s know where to find it when the time comes. Where a Will is lost, in the absence of circumstances which tend towards a contrary conclusion, it is presumed that the lost Will was revoked by destruction. This could lead to an earlier Will being proved or your estate being intestate, either way this could mean that your estate is distributed in a way which does not accord with your current wishes.
- Destroy any previous original Will(s). Although technically not necessary, destroying the previous Will should help prevent confusion. Also, where an old Will provides for individuals you no longer wish to provide for, it could serve to encourage those individuals to bring a claim to challenge the new Will.
- Keep detailed records of your wishes. The more thorough the notes of your wishes, and the more obvious it is that you have considered these in detail, along with any potential claims, the less likely it is that someone will look to challenge your Will.
- Communicate your wishes and the reasons behind them. If you feel comfortable doing so, this can help manage expectations.
- Keep up to date with the law. The law is always changing and may impact on your estate planning. What may have been tax efficient previously, may become redundant. Ensure your Will, coupled with the law, continues to reflect your wishes.
- Don’t forget about your Will. Family circumstances may change through death, birth, marriage and divorce. These changes may have an impact on your Will and the extent to which any Will reflects your wishes. Review your Will every few years and if your personal or financial position changes.
Please contact a member of our Private Client team if you would like to make or review your Will. If you are involved in a Will dispute or would like advice on contesting a Will then please get in touch with Kelly Mills.