Signing your will.
It’s a sad fact of life that, at some point, everybody will die. Once a person has died, their family or Executors (those appointed under their Will) will be left to deal with their Estate. Their assets (such as property, bank accounts, shares, etc) must be collected in, and their debts and liabilities paid (such as outstanding utility bills, funeral expenses, credit cards, etc).
If the deceased didn’t leave a Will, the Rules of Intestacy will determine who can apply to the Court for Letters of Administration. If a Will can be located, the people named as Executors will be able to make an application for a Grant of Probate. These are similar legal documents, known collectively as Grants of Representation, which you can read more about in our Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitor’s blog.
Every person who has capacity and is over the age of 18 should consider making a Will or, if you already have one, you should review it as your circumstances change, or periodically every couple of years.
However, what’s the point of going through the process of making a Will, and making the effort to put all your wishes down on paper, if you’re just going to invalidate it, by not signing it correctly? There’s no point!
So, to help you understand how to correctly sign your Will, our expert Wills, Trust and Probate Solicitors have put together a helpful Will signing instruction sheet.
Do I need witnesses?
Yes, you must have two witnesses present when you sign your final Will. They must be physically able to watch you sign the document (to comply with section 9 of the Wills Act 1837). The witnesses must also be over the age of 18 and have mental capacity themselves.
To avoid invalidating your Will in any other way, the witnesses should not be named in your Will as a beneficiary. Ideally, our local solicitors for Wills would always advise against your executors witnessing your Will, too, although this would not necessarily invalidate your Will. It’s always safer if both the witnesses are completely independent.
It's important to note that due to new laws introduced in response to the difficulties of Will signings during COVID-19, physical presence of the witnesses when signing a Will is not always required. You can read about this, here.
Where do I sign my final Will?
When we send final Wills out to clients for them to sign, we will always provide comprehensive instructions on how a client should sign their Will. We ask all clients to read this prior to signing, and to give us a call if they have any questions whatsoever.
If our clients come into sign their final Wills in front of our local solicitors for Wills, we will always guide our clients through the process of signing their Will, and we then act as their witnesses, so that we’re completely independent.
We usually ask clients to sign their final Wills at the bottom of the final page, next to the attestation clause, which looks like this:
Signed by the above-named ( insert name of person making the Will) )
In our presence then by us in his/hers )
Our local solicitors for Wills would advise clients to use their usual signature, unless this is just their initials, in which case we would suggest signing their full name.
The Will must be signed in the presence of the two witnesses.
Where do my witnesses sign my Will?
The witnesses, having physically watched you sign your final Will, must then both sign their usual signature underneath, printing their full name and address.
There is no need for anybody to sign elsewhere on the Will, unless an amendment is made to a typed Will by hand, in which case both the will-maker and the witnesses must initial next to any change.
Why does my Will signature need to be witnessed?
It may seem silly; it’s your Will, why do you need someone to witness you signing it? Well, in the event that there is ever a dispute over the validity of your Will, or your capacity to have made the Will, your witnesses may be called upon to provide evidence as to your capacity. They may also need to be called upon to prove that you were under no duress (i.e. you were not being pressured) to sign the final Will. A Will which does not have two witnesses would not normally be valid.
Can I amend my Will by hand?
If you want to make one amendment to a typed Will, such as changing an error in an address or changing an amount in the Will, whilst our team of local solicitors of Wills would always type any amendments (wherever possible), if we have come to do a home visit and you need to get your final Will signed urgently, we may suggest making a small amendment by hand. Any amendment would need to be initialled by both of the witnesses and the person making the Will.
If, however, after your Will has been signed and witnessed you decide that you wish to make a change or remove a provision, please do not amend your Will by hand. You will need to consider making a new Will to make the change, or making a codicil (like a short addition or amendment to your Will, on a separate legal document).