Beware of the Paperclip!

2 min read
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William Brock


How to ensure your will is valid

When you pass away, your estate (assets minus liabilities) passes in accordance with the wishes you make known in your Will.

However, if you have not made a valid Will, your wishes are coldly placed to one side, and your estate instead passes in accordance with the intestacy rules.  

Ensuring your Will is valid is very important. The Wills Act 1837 sets out many formalities to observe when it comes to signing your Will. Fail on one formality, and you have an invalid Will. Complying with the formalities of signing your Will alone can be a minefield, but even if you carefully observe, and diligently follow, the Wills Act 1937, the condition of your Will can cost you and your family's inheritance in the future.

When you pass away, your Executors may need to obtain the Grant of Probate from the Probate Registry. The Grant of Probate is a court issued document that “proves” the Will and those named therein to administer your estate. This document is required to sell assets, such as your home, and encash assets, such as your bank accounts. When your Executors apply for the Grant of Probate, they need to provide the probate registry with your original Will.

This brings us to the innocent paperclip. If there is a paperclip mark on the Will, the probate registry can raise enquiries as to why. Such a mark suggests that another document was attached to the Will when it was signed, and to satisfy the registry that there was no document attached, will take investigation into the history of the storage and condition of the Will and the preparation and filing of a witness statement or two. Further, if by the condition of your Will it appears that you tried to burn, tear or otherwise tried to revoke your Will, the probate registry must be satisfied that you did not.

A paperclip mark can spiral into a costly exercise, and one that calls into question the validity of your Will. We have saved applications for the Grant of Probate for our clients before, but it is hard and exacting work. This cost can be avoided provided your Will is made and stored correctly, to protect your wishes and your family's inheritance.

The pitfall from a simple paperclip mark is a deep one, and you can imagine how many pitfalls you can fall into when making your Will. There is no replacement for a professional solicitor when it comes to making your Will.

You take your car to the garage, your pet to the vet, and you should take the matter of your family's inheritance, to your solicitor.

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