The Court of Appeal has held a will valid despite witnesses not signing the Will
The witnesses were present when the testator signed his will and completed the section of the will where they inserted their name, address and occupation, however the will did not provide a space for a signature and therefore this was omitted. The witnesses gave evidence that they had carried out the above steps and ensured they had witnessed the testator’s signature. The Court compared the wording from section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 and 1982. Whilst the 1837 Act required that witnesses should “subscribe” however the wording was replaced in the 1982 Act to say they should “sign”. The Court held that the change in the wording was to modernise archaic language rather than impose stricter formalities witnesses. It was decided that the Act would be interpreted so that witnesses may write their name with the intention that this was proof of their presence.
The Law Commission is due to release a report on reforming the law on wills by the end of the year and the Court of Appeal’s decision above, may be reflected in this. The Law Commissions consultation which was published on 13 July 2017 has already raised the issue of whether the requirement for witnesses to “attest” the will should be removed as it is not clearly defined and therefore not understood.
For advice on wills, please contact Nicole Gallop Mildon Head of Private Client and Cross-border Property.