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Will Definition - Challenging Validity - Probate Solicitors


There are certain legal considerations necessary in order that a document purporting to be a will is considered to be valid. There is no specific ‘will definition’ but there are a number of legal requirements that may be considered as part of a will definition and failure of any of them can invalidate the document which would mean that the will is void. If there is no earlier will then the intestacy rules would take precedence and if there is an earlier valid will, that earlier will would take precedence. The basis requirements for a document that would fit into any valid will defintion are as follows :-

  • the testator must be of legal age which in almost all cases means that the person making the will must have been aged at least eighteen years old at the time that the will was executed (signed and witnessed).

  • The testator must have full mental capacity at the time of signature. This is a matter for medical authorities and expert witness evidence from a consultant psychiatrist. A will made by a person suffering from a mental disability may be null and void in which case an earlier will may take precedence if the testator was of sound mind at the time the earlier will was executed. This is particularly important in the case of the elderly who may be suffering from dementia. It is however worth mentioning that some mentally ill individuals do have lucid moments and a will made during a period, however short, when mental capacity has returned will be valid.

  • The testator must understand the consequences of their actions. This impinges both on mental capacity outlined above and where the testator is fooled into signing a document that they think is something else. Many testators have signed a will thinking they were witnessing someone else’s will at the behest of a corrupt beneficiary.

  • There must be no undue influence, coercion or duress on the testator. Many elderly people are oppressed by others including relatives, carers and neighbours. Undue influence is pressure that falls short of duress and usually exists where there is some sort of relationship between the parties. Duress or coercion is based on a threat to cause harm and is generally thought of as considerably more serious than undue influence.

  • The will must be signed by the testator who must understand the nature of document that is being signed. The testator may sign in advance of the witnesses but must acknowledge the validity of the signature immediately prior to witnessing.

  • The will must be signed by two witness present at the same time and in the presence of the testator who may have signed the will before the witnesses arrive but the testator must acknowledge the signature in their presence immediately prior to the witnesses signature. All three must be present at the same time when both witnesses sign the will. Witnesses must be of legal age which generally means they must be aged over 18 years old and they must also be of sound mind and not take anything under the will as a bequest. A witness who is left an inheritance will loose that inheritance but the validity of the rest of the will remains unaltered.

Specialist Probate Solicitors

If you are concerned that a document in contention does not fit into the standard will definition you may need to take legal advice. Our specialist solicitors offer free advice with no further obligation on the possibility of contesting a will or probate. Just send the contact form or email our offices and a solicitor will give you information on how to preserve your legal rights. Time limits may apply and you should not delay taking qualified advice.