The most common reason for a will not being valid is when the person whose will it is (the Testator) has not had their signature witnessed or the witnesses were not together when the will was signed. And if one of the witnesses is a beneficiary to the will, they lose the right to what they would have been given (though the will is still valid).
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You can lodge a ‘caveat’ at a probate registry to stop probate or letters of administration being granted if:
you think there is something wrong with the will; or
someone is applying for letters of administration when they don’t have the right to.
However, you will need specialist legal advice if you are in this position.
It is difficult proving the will is not valid because:
the person was not mentally capable when they made the will; or
they made the will under undue influence.
You would normally need medical evidence to show they were not mentally capable. You would need specialist legal help to do this.
If you get married, your will is automatically made not valid, unless you make it ‘in consideration of marriage’ (that is, if you mention your forthcoming marriage in the will). If you get divorced, all that happens is that anything that you specifically mention as going to your ex-husband or ex-wife is ignored.
What makes a valid will?
For a person’s will to be valid, they must be:
‘mentally capable’ (which means they fully understand what they are doing in writing their will) ; and at least 18 years old (though you can make a will if you are younger and on active military service).
The will must:
have been made without ‘undue influence’ (for example, under threat from someone);
be in writing; and
be signed by the person whose will it is (the ‘Testator’) and two witnesses, who must all be together when the signing is done.The witnesses should not be people who might be named in the will (or the husband or wife of such a person). If you witness a will and you are named as someone who will benefit from it, you will lose your right to that benefit when the person dies.
If a person has died leaving a valid will, the people who are named as the executors can arrange the funeral straight away. They can also take charge of the house and possessions of the person who has died. They must next work out whether they need to apply for probate.