Probate and the crystallisation of Wills
Probate – Wills
A Last Will and Testament, otherwise known as a Will, is an important legal document. Perhaps we have all thought about what will happens to the mountains of ‘stuff’ such as possessions, property and investments that we will accumulated at the time of our death. A valid Will allows a person to make sure that this stuff (the estate) is shared out amongst the living.
It is not a legal requirement to make a Will, but the idea of deciding what happens to your estate when you die means that writing a Will makes good sense. If an individual has not created a valid Will by the time they pass on, their estate may become subject to the law in how it is distributed and not go to the people they would have liked.
Wills are best written by a legal professional because, even though it is possible for anybody to write a Will, there are a number of technical aspects that need to be got right. There are also a number of legal requirements that need to be fulfilled, as these will help avoid damaging disputes over the estate after the writer of the Will has passed on.
Any valid Will will need to include a number of things. The individual writing the Will will first need to identify themselves as the writer of the Will and clarify that they are of sound mind. They will then need to state how much money, property, possessions and investments they have and who they want all of this to go to when they die. It is important that any children under the age of 18 are provided for in the Will and it is specified who is going to look after them.
The person writing the Will needs to name someone as the executor. The executor is the person who will be responsible for carrying out the wishes that are contained in the Will. Finally, the Will must be signed and dated by the person writing it and also have the signatures of two witnesses as well. If these requirements are not adhered to, the Will is not valid in the eyes of the law will have to be disregarded.
Wills can be contested on a number of grounds. Under the provisions of the Inheritance Act 1975 any person who is considered to be dependent upon the deceased must be provided for in the Will. This includes family such as a spouse or children, but also ex-spouses and step children. A Will can also be successfully contested if it can be shown that the person writing the Will was under the undue influence of someone else at the time that they wrote it. If the person writing the Will can be shown to have not been of the right mental capacity at the time of writing, the Will can be thrown out as invalid. Trying to prove a forgery is perhaps the most difficult way of proving that a Will is invalid.
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