Home > Making a Will > How Legally Binding is a Will?

How Legally Binding is a Will?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 7 Aug 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
How Legally Binding Is A Will?

Making a will is something we all know we should do, but many of us keep putting it off. It’s understandable – a will reminds us of our own mortality, something we don’t want to think about, and it involves working with the legal profession and legal documents, something many of us would rather avoid!

Wills can be challenged, and, of course, there’s no way you can defend yourself at that point. People – which in this case would generally be relatives – can challenge a will if they feel they haven’t been adequately provided for under the provisions of the will or if they feel the will is invalid for some reason – if the person wasn’t of sound mind when they made it, for instance, or was heavily influenced by another person. At times these legal challenges will succeed.

Making a Will That’s Valid

There are will-making kits available and for many people with simple estates, they’re adequate. Whether you do it from a kit or through a solicitor, though, there are certain requirements that have to be fulfilled when making a will for it to be legal.

You have to be over 18, of sound mind, to understand what you’re doing, and be aware of the property you’re leaving and the people to whom you’re leaving it when making a will. It must be made of your own volition and without any outside pressure from people who might benefit.

When your will is complete, you need to sign it in the presence of two witnesses, both of whom must add their own signatures – that makes it into a legal document. To keep the process above board, neither a witness nor their spouse can benefit from your will. If any of them is due to inherit, they can still be a witness, but it means they can’t benefit from the will.

Whilst not vital to a will’s validity, when making a will you should also include the date you sign the will.

Of course, circumstances do change, and you might want to change your will. For a proper legal document, you could either make a new will or add a codicil. Unless there are big changes, a codicil, or amendment to the will, might well be adequate. Like the original will, it needs to be signed and also have the signatures of two witnesses to become a legal document, although they don’t have to be the same people who signed the original will.

You can destroy a will by tearing it up or burning it – but you have to do it yourself, or it must be done while you’re there. You also need to make sure that your new will has a clause revoking all prior wills.

Challenging a Will

One thing to be aware of is that there are time limits for challenging a will, so you’ll need to act quickly through a solicitor if that’s your intention.

As long as the will was created properly, it can be difficult to challenge. If your legal challenge is based on the idea of unsound mind or undue influence of another person, you’ll need to have very solid evidence to prove your case, as the law allows a great deal of leeway to those making a will.

There are circumstances under which people who feel they haven’t been provided for can challenge the will, although they only have six months from the grant of probate in which to do so. Former and current spouses and civil partners can challenge, as can those deemed “children of the family” (which might not apply to adult children) or someone with whom the deceased has co-habited for two years prior to death.

A person with a substantial financial interest in property owned by the deceased – someone who owned the property jointly, for instance, or to have given a substantial sum to the upkeep of property owned by the deceased – might have a claim outside the will, but legal advice would be necessary.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
John - Your Question:
Is the validity of a will only governed by the signatures of witnesses, or has it to be registered somewhere ie Solicitors ??? If one signature of a witness to a will, then becomes executive to that will. Is that correct, also how can you obtain a copy of a will. If the executive will not release a copy, yet she ventures onward to sell the house.

Our Response:
A Will is valid if it's made voluntarily by someone of sound mind. It has to be in writing and signed in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both over 18. These two witness must also sign it in the present of the person whose Will it is.Witnesses (or their married partners)cannot be left anything in the Will. An executor can be a witness to a Will but can't be a beneficiary. Note that an executor may be responsible for selling a property in order to divide the estate and distribute the assets.
If you are not the executor of the Will you are not automatically entitled to a copy. The Will only becomes a public document when probate has been granted. So you will need to contact the probate registry to ask for a copy once the Will has been administered.
TheWillExpert - 8-Aug-18 @ 11:49 AM
Is the validity of a will only governed by the signatures of witnesses, or has it to be registered somewhere ie Solicitors ??? If one signature of a witness to a will, then becomes executive to that will. Is that correct, also how can you obtain a copy of a will. If the executive will not release a copy, yet she ventures onward to sell the house.
John - 7-Aug-18 @ 6:16 AM
Dave - Your Question:
Hi.My grandfather recently passed away and left to his grandchildren an amount "equal to the tax free allowance at the year of my death" with the balance going a third party charity. But I am confused over the wording since there is now an additional tax-free property allowance. Would that be included? My grandmother also did not utilise this allowance so under HMRC the 2x£125k would be tax free on top of the normal tax free allowance but I'm not clear how much we should get due to the wording of the will.

Our Response:
It sounds like a badly worded Will, you should ask a legal professional for clarification.
TheWillExpert - 5-Jul-18 @ 3:36 PM
Hi. My grandfather recently passed away and left to his grandchildren an amount "equal to the tax free allowance at the year of my death" with the balance going a third party charity. But I am confused over the wording since there is now an additional tax-free property allowance. Would that be included? My grandmother also did not utilise this allowance so under HMRC the 2x£125k would be tax free on top of the normal tax free allowance but I'm not clear how much we should get due to the wording of the will.
Dave - 2-Jul-18 @ 9:29 PM
Mae - Your Question:
My mother died last year leaving everything to my brother to sort out. It was always known that he would “see me right” concerning money, property etc as a verbal agreement. Two and a half months later, my brother died, leaving everything to his partner. I have never seen a copy of his will which I believed was made while he was ill in hospital and I feel he wasn’t of sound mind at the time. Is there any way I can find out his wishes?

Our Response:
If there was a Will, you should be able to find it. If you have evidence that he was intending to leave something to you and/or you want to challenge a Will, you may need to seek professional legal advice.
TheWillExpert - 27-Jun-18 @ 1:52 PM
My mother died last year leaving everything to my brother to sort out.It was always known that he would “see me right” concerning money, property etc as a verbal agreement.Two and a half months later, my brother died, leaving everything to his partner.I have never seen a copy of his will which I believed was made while he was ill in hospital and I feel he wasn’t of sound mind at the time.Is there any way I can find out his wishes?
Mae - 26-Jun-18 @ 3:52 PM
denpo - Your Question:
My brother passed away a week before his divorce was finalised, because of this his wife ( who he hasnt lived with for 18 months) has the rights to everything, the thing is we found a will and she is not in it, does the will over ride her involement.

Our Response:
Get the Will checked over by a solicitor for validity. If it's valid, then the terms of it will apply, but the ex wife can still apply to the courts to challenge it.
TheWillExpert - 25-Jun-18 @ 2:54 PM
My brother passed away a week before his divorce was finalised, because of this his wife ( who he hasnt lived with for 18 months) has the rights to everything, the thing is we found a will and she is not in it, does the will over ride her involement.
denpo - 23-Jun-18 @ 12:21 PM
A codicil had been created in 2011 in addition to a will made in 1993. In 2009, the person was deemed to suffer from dementia and yet has signed a codicil even though the legal firm and witnesses were informed of the dementia by his wife. Professional medical evidence indicates the individual suffered from dementia and no medical expert was present when the codicil was made. While the individual had the capacity to sign a document, medical evidence indicate that the person did not have the capacity to understand the legal terminology presented to him with regards to the codicil and any issue relating to a will or codicil. Is the codicil invalid? Was the individual coerced to signing by the legal firm? Is a medical expert required to be present for someone with dementia prior to signing such legal documents? Do the executors/beneficiaries need to be informed to invalidate a codicil? What can be done in such a case?
Markymark - 12-Jun-18 @ 12:21 AM
My mum recently passed away and in her will she appointed myself and my sister as executors. We're trying to sort out her estate and one of her debts is to a catalogue company.I've written to the company with a copy of the death certificate which they've returned, but they won't give me the final outstanding balance unless I send them proof that probate has been applied for ( it hasn't because the bank don't require it due to the level of funds) or a copy of the will.Am I able to send them a photocopy rather than get the original from the solicitors that prepared it?
Lou - 15-Jan-18 @ 8:31 PM
Angela - Your Question:
My sister and I are executors to my parents joint Wil. Both patents has passed. My sister has a copy of the Will and not given it to a solicitor. She and my other siblings are acting as if there is no Will and have aponted 2 other siblings to act as administrator in regards to my parents property abroad. When I confronted them about lodging it with a solicitor they said it was to late to do so.Please advice what I need to do as I can't get a copy of the Will I had ask my sister (other executor) for a copy but hasn't done so.

Our Response:
Have you spoken to a solicitor about this?
TheWillExpert - 3-Jan-18 @ 2:31 PM
My sister and I are executors to my parents joint Wil. Both patents has passed. My sister has a copy of the Will and not given it to asolicitor. She and my other siblings are acting as if there is no Will and have aponted 2 other siblings to act as administrator in regards to my parentsproperty abroad. When I confronted them about lodging it with a solicitor they said it was to late to do so. Please advice what I need to do as I can't get a copy of the Will I had ask my sister (other executor) for a copy but hasn't done so.
Angela - 31-Dec-17 @ 5:01 AM
Hi my mother recently died before she passed she changed the executers to my sister and her husband. It was my sisters solicitor that was there and her and her husband.The Wills were witnessed signed and dated. My sister has apparently told other siblings that the Wills are not legally binding is this true. I think my parents were pushed into this as my sister borrowed a massive amount of money from my parents which meant them taking a second mortgage which now they are just paying interest on second mortgage. Something just isnt right what can i do
Lou - 22-Nov-17 @ 3:37 PM
Jay - Your Question:
My parents have left their house to me and my sister in their will but there is a daughter from my dads first marriage (not his by blood) that he raised to the age of fifteen that is excluded in the will. Can she contest this? Also, there is another sibling from his first marriage that isn’t his by blood, if excluded in their will, can he contest this as well? My parent are adamant that only myself and sister have any inheritance.Many thanks

Our Response:
If the other children are not the biological offspring of your father, it will be difficult for them to contest it.
TheWillExpert - 31-Oct-17 @ 3:20 PM
My parents have left their house to me and my sister in their will but there is a daughter from my dads first marriage (not his by blood) that he raised to the age of fifteen that is excluded in the will. Can she contest this? Also, there is another sibling from his first marriage that isn’t his by blood, if excluded in their will, can he contest this as well? My parent are adamant that only myself and sister have any inheritance. Many thanks
Jay - 28-Oct-17 @ 11:25 PM
Drella - Your Question:
My mother has lived in a house as a tenant for over 30 years. Her original landlady passed away in 2003. The new landlady, the step daughter, told my mom that in the will it stipulated that my mother could live in the house for as long as she wanted or until she passed and that her rent could never be raised. This week my mother received a phone call from the landlady's son that they are not going to honor the promise made and they now want to sell the house. Does she have any options at this point? Thank you for any guidance.

Our Response:
Did she receive any confirmation in writing about this? It might be wise to seek legal assistance on the basis of what the step daughter told your mother.
TheWillExpert - 18-Oct-17 @ 3:42 PM
My mother has lived in a house as a tenant for over 30 years. Her original landlady passed away in 2003. The new landlady, the step daughter, told my mom that in the will it stipulated that my mother could live in the house for as long as she wanted or until she passed and that her rent could never be raised. This week my mother received a phone call from the landlady's son that they are not going to honor the promise made and they now want to sell the house. Does she have any options at this point? Thank you for any guidance.
Drella - 17-Oct-17 @ 11:41 PM
Hi, my great Gran has recently passed away and she has left her house to myself and brother in her will, on the condition it is sold as possible after her death. The house was purchased for her by my mother and father; and since then my Gran has moved in to care for her. Since she has stipulated that the house is to be sold, does this absolutely have to happen or can myself and brother supersede this?
Mash1ey - 14-Oct-17 @ 9:24 PM
Candy - Your Question:
My dad had a revised will drawn up in 2012, leaving all his possessions to the thre children. Then in 2015, he had his house deeded to himself, and his eldest daughter and her husband, who had moved in with him. Now that he's deceased, does the property still need to be divided three ways, or, just one half the property divided three ways and the daughter retains the other half?

Our Response:
If his daughter has a share in the property and is listed on the deeds as such, it will be the remaider of the estate/possessions that is divided between you.
TheWillExpert - 11-Oct-17 @ 3:00 PM
My dad had a revised will drawn up in 2012, leaving all his possessions to the thre children. Then in 2015, he had his house deeded to himself, and his eldest daughter and her husband, who had moved in with him. Now that he's deceased, does the property still need to be dividedthree ways, or, just one half the property divided three ways and the daughter retains the other half?
Candy - 10-Oct-17 @ 3:24 PM
Nisey - Your Question:
My uncle wants to make me executor of his will. He does have one estranged adult daughter that he doesn't want to leave anything to. Could she come back after he's gone and sue me or the estate?

Our Response:
You can't be sued for being an executor of an estate and being an executor doesn't automatically mean you're a beneficiary either.
TheWillExpert - 31-Jul-17 @ 10:10 AM
My uncle wants to make me executor of his will. He does have one estranged adult daughter that he doesn't want to leave anything to. Could she come back after he's gone and sue me or the estate?
Nisey - 27-Jul-17 @ 5:31 AM
Muzz - Your Question:
In my dads will he want too be BURIED and my step mum had him CREMATED what can I do ??

Our Response:
There's not much you can do at this stage unfortunately. You could take legal action against your step mum but it would not gain you anything really.
TheWillExpert - 3-Jul-17 @ 2:18 PM
In my dads will he want too be BURIED and my step mum had him CREMATED what can i do ??
Muzz - 2-Jul-17 @ 12:48 PM
My mother died last year and my family and I only found out about 4 months ago, there was fraud involved and the person has been arrested. The Executor of the will is someone who groomed, used and spat my mum out! I have been liaising with the banks and they told me that the Executor hasn’t provided them with the will, and the bank has given me the money. My family and I want all the money to go to my mother’s charities, my concern is that my mother didn’t want her children to have any money. (this is stated in the will) My question is as the bank are aware of the Executor, is there a deadline to submitting the will. Also is my family allowed by law to accept this money and give to my mum’s charities? Can we also challenge the will?
Justice1 - 29-May-17 @ 4:04 PM
Tj - Your Question:
Advice needed. My in laws made some changes to their will. Firstly they added my husband as 1/3 owner of the property (FIL & MIL other 1/3 each). They stated that when they had both died my husband would take over ownership of the house and that 2 other members of the family would each receive £10,000. What we need to know is whether this is enforceable as there is no money just the house? Can my husband be forced to sell the house to pay that £20,000. I don't know why my FIL stated this sum as there isn't that sort of cash available. Thanks in advance.

Our Response:
Usually when a Will is written, if a specific amount is included is will say where it is (e.g bank account, share account, savings etc). If the money is to be taken from the proceeds of the house sale, the Will should specify this.
TheWillExpert - 2-May-17 @ 11:11 AM
Advice needed. My in laws made some changes to their will. Firstly they added my husband as 1/3 owner of the property (FIL & MIL other 1/3 each). They stated that when they had both died my husband would take over ownership of the house and that 2 other members of the family would each receive £10,000. What we need to know is whether this is enforceable as there is no money just the house? Can my husband be forced to sell the house to pay that £20,000. I don't know why my FIL stated this sum as there isn't that sort of cash available. Thanks in advance.
Tj - 1-May-17 @ 12:09 AM
How does a "Family Trust" effect a will? If the will was made then placedo in a family trust, does the trust need to be dissolved before changing the will? Adding on to that question, if you are the sole owner of property from a will that is in a trust, but your will is also in said trust and has three benificiaries... Does this change the rules??
Joe - 5-Feb-17 @ 5:25 PM
I want to write my first will. I am an only child, my mother and father have both passed away. I want to leave all my assets to my two nephews. Would a off the shelf, diy will, be adequate for my circumstance?
Chelseablueboy - 2-Jan-17 @ 2:01 PM
Lillie - Your Question:
Our only child (an adult) died in 2015, but we have two godchildren, now both young adults. Can we leave our assets to them.and will it be binding?

Our Response:
Yes if you specify it correctly in a Will. It might be worth seeking legal advice if you think it likely that someone would contest it.
TheWillExpert - 29-Sep-16 @ 10:34 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • TheWillExpert
    Re: How Legally Binding is a Will?
    John - Your Question:Is the validity of a will only governed by the signatures of witnesses, or has it to be registered…
    8 August 2018
  • John
    Re: How Legally Binding is a Will?
    Is the validity of a will only governed by the signatures of witnesses, or has it to be registered somewhere ie Solicitors ???…
    7 August 2018
  • TheWillExpert
    Re: Life Estates
    AB - Your Question:My husband and I married later in life- he sold his house at a very generous price to his daughter to enable her to get on the prope
    24 July 2018
  • Tanya
    Re: Life Estates
    My parents have a lifetime tenancy and thereafter their inheritors. They are getting older and the property has quite a lot of stairs. Is there a way…
    21 July 2018
  • Scarramouche
    Re: Debt After Death
    My mother died 2 years ago intestate. and a solicitor was used to deal with the estate thereafter. This was completed about a year ago after her…
    15 July 2018
  • TheWillExpert
    Re: How Legally Binding is a Will?
    Dave - Your Question:Hi.My grandfather recently passed away and left to his grandchildren an amount "equal to the tax free…
    5 July 2018
  • TheWillExpert
    Re: Keeping Your Will Up-to-Date
    H - Your Question:I made a Will over 25 years ago and received a letter from another firm saying that the original company no…
    5 July 2018
  • Dave
    Re: How Legally Binding is a Will?
    Hi. My grandfather recently passed away and left to his grandchildren an amount "equal to the tax free allowance at the year of…
    2 July 2018
  • TheWillExpert
    Re: Preparing Your Will in Scotland
    Emma - Your Question:My fiance's dad (future father in law) asked me to witness his will for him. I know that my fiance's…
    29 June 2018
  • Emma
    Re: Preparing Your Will in Scotland
    My fiance's dad (future father in law) asked me to witness his will for him. I know that my fiance's entitlement would be…
    28 June 2018