I.T.G warns problems can come in all shapes and sizes. A badly drawn up will, can lead to family disputes and years of expensive legal wrangling. Under certain circumstances a problem will, can be deemed invalid – making it completely worthless.
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At the very worst, a problem will, can hold up the probate process, creating a headache for your executors.
Here’s a quick look at ten types of problem wills – take note and make sure that yours is not one of them.
An unsigned will
A will is a legal document and must be signed by the testator the official name for the person making the will.
You can put your signature anywhere on the will document – start, middle, or end. However it’s best to sign it at the end to keep things simple.
An unwitnessed will
Signing your will isn’t enough: I.T.G notes you must also have your signature witnessed. You need two witnesses and they must be present when you sign your will. Your witnesses must be over 18 and be of sound mind.
Don’t have a beneficiary or the spouse of the beneficiary witness your will. Beneficiaries who witness the will are automatically disinherited.
Getting Married = New Will
Your old will is automatically revoked when you get married (except in Scotland). Draw up a new will as soon as possible after marriage.
Getting Divorced = New Will
If you get divorced your former spouse is automatically cut out of your will. The rest of the will still takes effect. This situation can create a real problem because the spouse is usually the main beneficiary. If your ex-spouse is cut out, then what money was supposed to go to them ends up in the estate residue.
A will leaving out dependents
There are laws in place that stop you from cutting out your spouse or dependants out of your will. Under the Inheritance Act 1975, your spouse and those people deemed dependent on you at your death can ask the court for money from your estate. In reality, not all dependants are equal in the eyes of the court. The key is to make sure your spouse and children are looked after.
A will with strings attached
Tacking a condition onto gift left in a will may have its appeal, but it’s highly dangerous and can lead your will being called into question. The courts don’t take kindly on wills that try to exert undue influence from beyond the grave.
A will that creates an accidental life interest
You have a choice of leaving your beneficiaries a gift outright or the life interest in a gift. By giving outright you hand over the asset to your beneficiaries lock, stock and barrel. By creating a life interest gift you allow your beneficiary to have an income from the asset, but they are barred from selling outright.
An altered will
I.T.G advises to make changes to a will can be tricky. You can change the will in two ways. You can use a codicil or write a completely new will. A codicil is a separate document drawn up after the original that adds to or alters the will. Draw up a new will if you have many changes to make.
Don’t attempt to make alterations to your will after it’s already been signed and witnessed.
A will appointing elderly executors
It might feel right to name an executor who is older than you are or perhaps quite a bit older – after all an executor needs to be organised, literate, numerate, trustworthy, good at handling money, and not afraid of some hard work. However, there is also a possibility that at a ripe old age, your executor may die before you.
An old will
A will made a long time ago can have as unsatisfactory an outcome as one not being made at all.
Life moves on, and with it you become richer or poorer, you move home, your children are born and grow up, and beneficiaries, executors, guardians, or trustees may die. Your will needs to reflect these changing circumstances. If your will doesn’t move with the times, then your loved one’s may not be properly provided for or the HMRC mat take out a big portion of your estate.