It is, of course, important to have your Will prepared by a Solicitor and to take legal advice to ensure that your Will is interpreted in the way you intended. Although not advisable, it is possible to draft your own Will. Either way, there are strict formalities to follow to ensure your Will is valid.
The formalities for Wills are governed by laws made in in the 19th Century in the Wills Act 1837. If these formalities are not complied with, your Will may be invalid and you would die intestate.
The three main formalities are:
1. The Will must be in writing
This may seem obvious, but some people assume that a Will can be verbal. Interestingly, a Will can be drawn up in ink or pencil, although ink is certainly preferable.
2. The person making the Will (the Testator) must sign the Will
The Testator must either sign or make a mark to execute their Will. If a Testator is illiterate or for some other reason, maybe due to illness or frailty, is unable to sign their name, a cross, mark or even a thumb print is acceptable.
3. The Will must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses
Both witnesses must see the Testator signing the Will. The witnesses need not know the contents of the Will, but they must know it is a Will.
Once the Testator has signed the Will, the witnesses must then sign the Will to acknowledge that they were present when the Testator signed the Will.
Who can be a witness?
Witnesses must be at least 18 years of age. They do not need to be professionals, so can be a neighbour, friend or work colleague. A person who is to benefit from the Will (a Beneficiary) must not be a witness and neither should their spouse or a close relative, as this may lead to the Beneficiary losing their inheritance.