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How to make a will
Many persons acquire property during their lifetime. To ensure that the property you own at the time of your death is shared in the way you want, you should make a will. A will is a document expressing a person’s intention about the way in which his or her property is to be distributed after death. Almost anything you own can be given by a will including land, houses, furniture, cars, money, jewelry, books, and so on.
A will should name an executor who is the person responsible for ensuring that persons to benefit from the will receive their due. For there to be a valid will:
• The person making the will (testator) must be 21 years or over.
• The will must be in writing. It can be type-written or printed. It must be clear and legible.
• The will must be signed by the testator. The testator must, in the presence of at least two witnesses, place his or her signature at the end of the will. A signature includes a thumb print, rubber stamp or initials. Where the testator is unable to sign the will, such as where he or she is blind, illiterate or physically infirm, the will may be signed on behalf of the testator in his or her presence.
• The will must be signed by two witnesses. After the testator signs the will in the presence of the witnesses, the witnesses must then sign in the presence of the testator. The witnesses can only sign after the testator and they must sign in the presence of the testator and each other. It is a common error to have someone who is to benefit under a will (a beneficiary) sign as a witness. A beneficiary must not be used as a witness. Doing so will make that gift fail, despite what the will says.
• A testator must dispose of the property freely and willingly and must be of sound mind and memory.
The testator must understand at the time the will is signed: the nature of what he or she is doing; who are the beneficiaries under the will; and how the property is to be distributed. Revoking and making new wills A will can be revoked by the testator at any time.
The physical destruction of a will by the testator, or by someone in his or her presence and direction, revokes it. This could be done by the testator deliberately burning or tearing the physical document itself or even by striking out the signature.
A valid marriage automatically revokes any will made by either the husband or wife before the marriage. A will can also be revoked by the signing and witnessing of a new will. All wills should contain a clause that revokes any wills that came before them. If there is no such clause, a court may find that the testator intended to revoke the earlier will, if the contents of the new will are different in important ways from the earlier will.
• This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should consult a legal adviser.
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