A will may be made by any person, male or female—married or single— over twenty-one years of age, who is of sound mind. The only persons whose wills need not be witnessed are soldiers on active service and sailors at sea.
The testament must be made in ink, beginning with the name and address of the testator, the date, and the various bequests with the names of recipients. This must be written in ink, and signed by the testator in the presence of at least two witnesses, who must also sign, as having witnessed the signature of the drawer of the will. Codicils (amendments or additions tc the will, made after the drawing op ,f the original document, must Use be witnessed in the same way). Witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the will and should not be near relatives, but any executors appointed therein are competent witnesses.
The will need not be read by the witnesses, nor need they know the contents, as they are merely witnesses to the signature. If the testator is blind or an invalid, however, the will must be read over to him, or her, in the presence of the witnesses, when it is not necessary for him to sign himself, but ma}’ be signed for him, and attested by the witnesses. ~£,1 ½ a correction is necessary, there must be no erasure—the correc tion must be scored through and initialled, and the witnesses must testify to witnessing the correction.
Each folio must be signed at the foot by the drawer and the wit- nesses, and the number of the folios must be stated at the end of the document. No stamp is required.
The whole object of the testator should be to make the document as clear, unambiguous and uncompromising as possible: therefore the simpler and less technical the verbage, the better. If the testator uses a legal technicality, he should be quite certain that he is well aware of the meaning. figures relating to money should always be written out in full, and dates should be spelled out also. No contractions are advisable; even the sign ‘&’ is inadvisable ; it should- be written out fully.
Anyone over twenty-one, who is of sound mind, may be appointed an executor. A wife or husband is generally one of them, or the next of kin. It is not advisable, however, to appoint a very old poison or a bedridden one—or, indeed, anyone who is unlikely to be able to execute the duties involved. The death of a witness does not affect the validity of a will.
When a person dies without leaving a will, someone must come forward to administer the estate. Such person becomes the Administrator and the Probate Registry provides him with Letters of Administration. This power is granted to the next of kin, in the following order: wife or husband, son or daughter, children of the former, father or mother, brother or sister, grandfather or grandmother, etc. Letters of Administration are also needed in cases where an executor is not named in the will.
The father and mother take, in equal shares absolutely, the property of a son who dies unmarried and intestate.
Where a husband or wife dies intestate without issue, the husband or wife takes everything; if there are children, then the husband or wife takes the furniture absolutely and £1,000 net and a life interest in half the rest. The residue of the property is held on statutory trusts for the children. 162
A nuncupative will is legally described as follows: ‘A devise expressed verbally before two witnesses and then committed to writing.’’ This kind of will is generally only advisable for the personal property of soldiers and sailors on active service.
When a testator dies, an executor proves the will and applies to Somerset House, or elsewhere, for Probate. The authorities look into the conditions of the will and, when satisfied that all is in order, grant Probate on payment of the correct Death Duties.
Persons desiring to consult (‘search’) wills, may do so by applying to Somerset House (Principal Probate Registry), and giving the full name of the deceased and date of death. The searcher will then be directed to the appropriate calendar of wills, which he will turn up, and having located the entry, will copy same on to a requisition, pay the fee of one shilling, and the will is then forthcoming for exam ination. If a copy is required, it will be supplied at the rate of sixpence per folio of ninety words. If a certified copy is desired, this will be supplied at the rate of ninepence per folio, or one shilling (if stamped) in addition. A certified copy of a will duly stamped may be cited as evidence in a court of law.
Will searches for literary or genealogical purposes may be made gratis, provided a reader’s ticket is obtained, and such searches confined to wills of a hundred years or over.