Q&A - Does a Will become invalid if a beneficiary also acts as a witness?

Q: Recently my father died and my stepmother, whom I got on well with, died a month later. I had helped them write a Will after they married six years ago, using an online guide we found, so I know they both left their estates to one another and then to me. However, having searched the house I cannot find it. Now my stepmother’s sisters are claiming the Will would have been invalid anyway, as I was the only witness to it as well as being a beneficiary. They claim that the entire estate is therefore theirs. Is this correct?

A: Unfortunately, if you witness a Will whilst also being named as a beneficiary, the Will is invalid. Your situation sadly highlights the dangers of making online Wills or homemade Wills, even with guidance. With an invalid Will both your father and stepmother will be considered to have passed away intestate and their estates will pass under the rules of intestacy.

As your father died first his estate will have passed to your stepmother, as they were married, and he did not make a valid Will. Currently, an estate worth up to £270,000 will pass to the surviving spouse under the rules of intestacy, so if your father’s estate was within this limit it is likely to have passed outright to your stepmother. Your stepmother’s estate will similarly pass under the rules of intestacy. As she was widowed and presumably did not have any children and you were not legally adopted by her, under intestacy rules her estate would firstly pass to her parents and then to her siblings if her parents had predeceased her. So, unfortunately, you will not receive a share of the estate.

Making a valid Will has never been more important than it is in these current times of uncertainty, particularly for couples who have children from previous relationships, to ensure that their families are sufficiently provided for.

Artilcle 04/05/2020

This question has been answered by Ulia Choudhry a Solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  In accordance with government guidelines, most of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

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Ulia Choudhry

Ulia Choudhry

Solicitor

Part of our Probate, Wills, Tax and Trusts team in Wrexham

Victoria Wilson

Victoria Wilson

Partner

A Partner and Head of our Probate, Wills, Trusts and Tax team