The date on the Will of a deceased can have significant consequences for executors, beneficiaries, and other parties interested in an estate. The examples below are some common questions that many people often have regarding the date of a Will.
Does a Will Need to Have a Date for its validity?
A Will remains valid even if no date has been applied to it. Without a date, there will be difficulty in proving that the undated Will is the most recent Will made by the deceased. This can result in uncertainty as to who the ultimate executors and beneficiaries are.
What if the Will has an incorrect date or two different dates?
A Will that contains an incorrect date or two differing dates does not automatically become invalid. The Probate Registry will more than likely require evidence to confirm the date for when the Will was signed. They will also want evidence to confirm that the document is the final Will of the deceased when a probate application is made.
Can the validity of a Will be challenged based on the date of the Will?
The date or the lack of a date will not be enough to challenge the validity of a Will. However, it can give rise to disagreements over which Will is the deceased’s final Will. This is the case particularly if there are two Wills that were made very close together, which can greatly affect the ultimate beneficiaries or executors.
This can also potentially indicate some other issues with the validity of the Will, for example:
Fraud: if the date was added or had been altered by another person at a later date.
Lack of testamentary capacity: if the deceased did not have the capacity at the time that the Will was signed.
Undue influence: if the deceased was under pressure to sign the Will at that particular date.
Knowledge and approval: if the deceased had signed and dated the Will before the contents were properly explained to them.
Can my Will expire?
Once it has been written, the Will lasts forever. They do not have any time restrictions meaning you do not have to write out a new one every year. It is ideal to regularly review and update your Will. Circumstances and family dynamics never stay the same; they can change, as do personal affections. These can have a significant effect on how a person would want to leave their estate. Not reviewing a Will may result in unwanted results.
It should also be noted that marriage will revoke a Will automatically. Upon marriage, the existing Will is no longer valid. If a new Will is not drafted, then the intestacy rules would apply, and the new spouse would become the substantial beneficiary. As it currently stands, the Intestacy Rules mean that the spouse would attain the initial £270,000 of the estate alongside all the personal possessions, whatever their value. The spouse would also receive 50% of whatever remains, and the other 50% is split between the surviving children (or their children if they have already died). If an individual has a Will prior to being married, it is ideal to review it just before the marriage instead of leaving it until after.
What if the Will is not correctly signed, dated, and witnessed?
In order for a Will to be valid, it must be in writing and signed by the person who is making the Will (or by another person at the direction of the Will maker if they cannot sign). There must be two independent witnesses to witness the signature on the Will, and they must be present in the same room and at the same time. The witnesses should not be beneficiaries (the individuals who will receive money, assets, or anything else from the estate) or family members. The witnesses must also sign in the sight and presence of the Will maker.
What should I do if there is concern regarding the validity of a Will?
If you have concerns regarding the validity of a Will as an executor, beneficiary, or as another interested party, or if you have concerns surrounding the effects of the Intestacy Rules, you should seek advice from a specialist contentious probate solicitor. They can talk you through the issues and provide advice regarding the best available options.
Having your Will up to date
Research carried out by Canada Life reported that fifty-nine per cent of people in the UK do not have a Will that is in place to protect their family and assets. If an individual were to die without a Will, their estate would be distributed in line with the Intestacy Rules. This can result in distant and estranged family members deriving benefits instead of those closest to the deceased such as cohabitees, stepchildren, and close friends. Intestacy Rules could also result in an estranged spouse being the substantial beneficiary.
Should you have any more questions regarding the dating of a Will or the Intestacy Rules, you can contact the Will Disputes team at Myerson Solicitors.