Executing a will

Once you've made your Will, you need to follow some rules about how to sign and formalise it. You have to stick to these rules, otherwise your Will won't be valid.
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There are certain formal procedures that you have to follow to make your Will legally valid. If your Will is invalid, your estate may not pass as you intend. In England and Wales the execution of your will involves three people: you and two witnesses. You must all be present throughout the process. 

In Scotland, the execution of your will involves two people: you and one witness. You must both be present throughout the process.

England and Wales

Witnesses must meet all the criteria below in England and Wales:

  • they must be over 18;
  • they cannot be an executor or beneficiary of your will;
  • they cannot be related to you or to anyone mentioned in your will either by blood, marriage or civil partnership.

Preferably your witnesses should be your age or younger to make it more likely that they will be alive at your death, in case they are required to give evidence about the signing of your will. Your witnesses may be related to each other. Before signing your will, you should read it through carefully again. It is not necessary for your witnesses to read your will, although they should be made aware that it is your will they are witnessing.

Scotland

Witnesses must meet all the criteria below in Scotland:

  • they must be over 16;
  • they must have credible information of the testator’s identity (at the time of signing);
  • they cannot be blind;
  • they cannot be illiterate (ie. they must be able to write their own name).

England, Wales and Scotland

Preferably your witnesses (or witness in Scotland) should be your age or younger to make it more likely that they will be alive at your death, in case they are required to give evidence about the signing of your will. Your witnesses may be related to each other (this is not applicable in Scotland as you only need one witness) . Before signing your will, you should read it through carefully again. It is not necessary for your witnesses (or witness in Scotland) to read your will, although they should be made aware that it is your will they are witnessing.

England and Wales

In the presence of your two witnesses and in the spaces provided, you should:

  1. date the document (eg 'the 6th day of June 2012');
  2. sign your name using your 'usual' signature where indicated whilst your witnesses watch;
  3. ask your two witnesses to add, in your presence, their 'usual' signatures where indicated, asking them to print their names, addresses and occupations clearly for identification purposes.

Scotland

In the presence of your witness and in the spaces provided, you should:

  • date the document (eg ‘the 6th day of June 2012’);
  • sign every page of the will using your ‘usual signature’ while your witness watches;
  • sign your name using your 'usual' signature where indicated whilst your witness watches;
  • ask your witness to add, in your presence, their ‘usual’ signatures where indicated, asking them to print their names, addresses and occupations clearly for identification purposes.

England, Wales and Scotland

No alterations should be made after your Last will and testament is signed.

It is important that you review your will and amend it to reflect any substantial or many changes in your life. You should review your will if:

  • someone named in your will dies;
  • you have children or grandchildren;
  • you get married (as marriage revokes a will in England and Wales); or
  • you get divorced.

This list is not exhaustive and any minor or substantial change should be accounted for. For further information read Reasons to make a will. If you make substantial changes to your will you may need to execute it again as a new document.

Many other changes can happen, such as a change of address, marriage or divorce or a change in financial circumstances. It may not be necessary to alter an original will or execute a new one. You can make small changes to your will by using a codicil.

A codicil is a document that needs to be signed and executed in the same way as a will. However it allows for changes or amendments to take effect instead of completely creating a new will or re-writing the original one. A codicil could be used to change who the executors are in the will, change the beneficiaries or even remove a beneficiary, take into account a change of address or a change in name. You can use the same witnesses (or witness in Scotland) as in your original will but is not compulsory. You shouldn't use someone as a witness if they or their spouse/civil partner benefits from the assets in the codicil as this will make the assets in the codicil invalid (this only applies in England and Wales).

The advantage of using a codicil is that it's cheaper than writing or creating a new will. A codicil doesn't replace an existing will and is only valid when it refers to the will that it's amending. However if you're considering making multiple or substantial changes, it might be better to write a new will. Ask a lawyer if you need help changing or amending your Last will and testament.

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