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18 January 2021

There are concerns that the new statutory instrument enabling Wills to be witnessed virtually during the Covid-19 health pandemic could result in a surge of problems, including the possibility of probate dispute claims.

Perhaps the first challenge presented by virtually-witnessed Wills, which came into effect on 28 September 2020, is the fact that they need the physical signatures of three individuals (the Will writer (testator) and two witnesses).

14 October 2020

There is only one method available to confidently prevent your estate from becoming the subject of a contentious and potentially costly and protracted probate dispute: instruct an experienced Wills solicitor to help you write a Will, ensure it is properly witnessed, store it securely and then update it correctly as and when necessary.

However, according to statistics, there are around 31 million adults in the UK who risk dying intestate (without a Will) – meaning that when they die their estate will pass on to their lawful heirs on the basis of the rules of intestacy rather than their actual wishes. This, inevitably, involves greater scope for the distress and acrimony inherent in a probate dispute.

17 September 2020

The government has announced a major statutory change to the way in which Wills can be witnessed in the UK. The amendment to the Wills Act of 1837 has been made in the form of a statutory instrument and comes as a response to the pressures of the coronavirus crisis. It will enable testators to make valid Wills by “videoconferencing or other visual transmission”.

Since the passing of the act, nearly two-hundred years ago, Wills in the UK have always required two witnesses to be physically present to witness the testator's signature and to provide their details – even during times of national crisis such as the second world war. The statutory instrument will have effect until 31 January 2022 at which point it may be extended if required.

10 March 2020

In some jurisdictions in the world – including in certain states in the US – a verbal Will may be considered valid. However, in the United Kingdom, for a Will to be considered legally enforceable it must be written down, preferably by an experienced solicitor for Wills using the appropriate language, and correctly signed and witnessed.

Once a Will is in place, any amendments should also be made formally through a signed and witnessed codicil, as any change to the original document could invalidate it.

So, what happens if, on your deathbed, you tell someone that you want to cut one of your children out of your Will or you decide to leave your entire estate to a donkey sanctuary? And what happens, if you have made a verbal promise to someone about an inheritance, but your Will does not reflect this?

26 October 2018

Clive Shaw has taken his ageing parents to court, bringing a propriety estoppel claim against them after discovering they had written him out of their Wills.

He claims that he worked on his parent's dairy farm for most of his life, from the age of seven, and that his parents promised him that one day the farm would be his. However, his mother took issue with his partner, Lesley Hollis, calling her a “gold-digger” after a family argument during Christmas in 2016.  His parents also claimed that he had not worked hard enough on the farm and would keep away from the farm when the father was working with the herd as Clive Shaw didn’t like cows – referring to them as “stinking, horrible, rotten creatures”. 

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