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10 Wills and Probate

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1. Introduction

2. Why should I make a will?

3. What makes a will valid?

4. Who can be a witness?

5. What does an executor or administrator do?

6. What is probate?

7. Will I have to pay inheritance tax?

8. Who takes charge if there is no will?

9. Who gets the estate if there is no will?

10. What can I do if I think there is something wrong with the will?

The most common reasons for a will not being valid are when:

  • the person who made the will did not get their signature witnessed;
  • the witnesses were not together when the will was signed; or
  • the person who made the will got married after making their will.

Also, if one of the witnesses is a beneficiary to the will, they lose the right to what the will says they should have (though the rest of the will is still valid).

You can lodge a 'caveat' at a probate registry to stop probate or letters of administration being granted if:

  • you think there is something wrong with the will; or
  • someone is applying for letters of administration when they don't have the right.

However, you will need specialist legal advice if you are in this position.

Other reasons may make a will invalid, including:

  • the person was not mentally capable when they made the will; or
  • they made the will under 'undue influence' from some other person.

It is difficult to prove that a will is invalid. You would normally need medical evidence to show a person was not mentally capable when they made their will, and you would need specialist legal help.

If you get married or register a civil partnership, your will automatically becomes invalid, unless you mention your forthcoming marriage or civil partnership in the will).

If you get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership after making a will, anything that you specifically mention in the will as going to your former husband, wife or partner is ignored. The rest of the will is still valid.

11. What can I do if I think the will is unfair?

12. What if there isn't enough money to pay for the funeral?

13. What if there isn't enough money to pay the person's debts?

14. Terms used in wills and probate matters

15. Further help

16. About this leaflet







This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Paul Elmhirst, a solicitor specialising in wills and probate.

Leaflet version: July 2007




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