Can I make a verbal will?
Posted on 21st February 2020
In many countries, including some States in the USA, verbal Wills (i.e. those spoken by the deceased), are valid. In England and Wales, however, they are not – one of the main requirements for a Will here is that it must be written down (and correctly signed/witnessed) so that it’s a valid legal document.
First things first, it’s important to make sure that you have a valid Will throughout your life, and that you keep it up to date. Circumstances can change, whether you acquire property or have a child, or you get married, review your Will. If the changes that you need to make are major, you may need to make a whole new Will (when our Wills solicitors in Lancaster’s fees are so good value – only £110.00 plus VAT for a single Will – most of our clients don’t mind changing their Wills throughout their lifetimes). If the changes are more minor, you may be able to make a codicil, or even only pay a reduced fee for our team to make the change. It is best to speak to our team first, to make sure you are making the change correctly.
Many of our clients wonder whether they can make the change verbally, for example by telling their executors and Trustees of the amendment. The short and long answer is you shouldn’t. Whilst, technically, a verbal alteration to a Will can be legal, if it is made in the right circumstances, this change could – rightly – be questioned intensely and, without the written proof, could be deemed invalid.
In one recent case, where the deceased (Mick Ivory) allegedly made a death-bed request to not let the rest of his family “get their hands on his hard-earned money”. Mr Ivory did not have a valid Will in place before he died.
Peter Ivory, the deceased’s brother, began to administer the deceased’s estate, which consisted of a property in Surrey (which was sold), his beloved dog, and a collection of rare Osmond Family memorabilia. Having sold the property, Peter received £414,000.00 which, after estate expenses, decreased to £367,000.00, as well as the dog and memorabilia.
Peter contends that his brother told him to keep it all or, if he couldn’t, to give it away to charity. He therefore took charge of the dog, donated the memorabilia to the Osmond fan club, and withdrew £150,000.00 in cash, which he then travelled around passing out to those in need, including homeless people, and a dog charity. Outside of Court, Peter’s Wife, Jackie, also revealed that they helped to pay for a friend to go on holiday and donated money to a school.
Peter’s other siblings, Alan and John, and his nephew, Michael, were outraged, and contended that the estate should have been divided equally between them all under the rules of intestacy.
Although Peter’s defence is based on the legal concept of ‘Donatio mortis causa’ (a gift given by a sick person when they are close to death), Alan, John and Michael have now made a claim against Peter in Court which, after a brief hearing recently, means that Peter must now provide a full account of the money he has distributed. Failure to provide this could lead to a jail sentence for the administrator.
For your peace of mind, and for the difficulties that can arise if you don’t have a valid Will, as highlighted by the case above, it’s always advisable to update or change your Will. Contact our team, here, at your local office, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can even use our online Wills form to start the process, here.
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