Privileged WillsPublished on: 26 October 2018
As I look out of my office window in our Oswestry Office, I can see a wonderful Poppy display in the school windows across from me in memory of Remembrance Day. The display is beautiful and thought provoking and reminds me of the soldiers who lost their lives at War.
We are very fortunate to have had and still have service men and women who are willing to risk their lives for our country and put themselves on the front line. As part of my job I prepare Wills for clients, I find it interesting that there are special rules relating to Armed Forces personnel who may not have the advantage of being given time to prepare their Wills in the setting of a solicitors office.
It is a general requirement for a Will to be in writing and signed by the person making the Will in the presence of two independent witnesses. You can imagine that if a member of the Armed Forces found themselves suddenly in a life threatening situation, they may feel the need to express their wishes regarding their Will but would not necessarily have the resources or capabilities of doing so.
Thankfully there are special provisions within Section 11 of the Wills Act 1837 which provides that any soldier in military service, or any mariner or seaman being at sea, may dispose of his estate without the requirement of the above formalities having to apply. This is called a Privileged Will and allows for the member of the military service, in the above conditions, being able to make either a written or an oral Will, and if it is in writing the requirement for witnesses does not apply. Witnesses are required if the Will is an oral Will as otherwise there would be no evidence that it had been expressed. The intentions of the person making the Will, and the witness’s ability to ensure that these wishes are carried out, is sufficient to establish that a Will had been made by the person in the forces.
The legislation also provides that where a member of forces is under the age of 18 they too can make a Privileged Will which is in contrast to the normal rules for preparing Wills where you must be over 18 to make valid Will.
This reminds me of the stories told that so many young boys under 18 enrolled themselves to join the forces in an effort to support our country and it is heartening to know they will have the ability, when in active duty, to ensure their possessions and assets can reach their loved ones.
Fortunately most of us can make our Wills in more comfortable surroundings and its always best, even for members of the Armed Forces, to prepare Wills in advance to avoid having to use these special provisions. Our specialist team at Lanyon Bowdler are available to guide you through the process.