Can I change my Will without two witnesses?
Parliament is considering emergency legislation to overcome the strict requirement for two independent witnesses when making a Will.
However, whilst there are very sensible grounds for having two independent witnesses – and wherever possible a Will should be signed with two independent witnesses – there are some means of effectively changing your Will without two independent witnesses, as follows.
(A) You do not need witnesses to make a Will if you are a member of HM Forces engaged in actual military service or in conditions similar to actual military service. This also applies to merchant seamen and others in conditions similar to actual military service.
(B) There are instances where a Will is valid if it conforms with a foreign law, and that law may not require witnesses: A foreign law will apply if it is the jurisdiction (1) where you sign your Will (2) where you are domiciled when you die (3) where you are habitually resident when you sign your Will (4) where you are habitually resident when you die (5) of your nationality when you sign your Will (6) of your nationality when you die.
(C) You can cancel an existing Will without any witnesses.
(D) Getting married or entering into a civil partnership will usually revoke your Will. The rules on witnesses for marriage/civil partnership are different to the rules for making a Will.
(E) You can change the nature of your estate. For instance: you could make an outright lifetime gift; you could make a lifetime gift into a trust under which you can still benefit; you could transfer a bank account into joint names; you can update a pension nomination etc.
(F) You can enable someone (say a common-law spouse) to bring a financial claim against your estate after you have died.
(G) You could re-sign your Will in the presence of those whom you want to disinherit!’
Nick Palmer is a solicitor in the private client team at Barker Gotelee, solicitors in Ipswich.