Legal Wills - Free Will Forms

Along with our free online wills we provide guidelines for writing a will.

We cover all aspects of legal wills such as the requirements for witnesses, executors and guardians and explain the probate process.

People also increasingly have a presence online with social media accounts which must be addressed when a person passes away. We'll show you how to make work of this easily.

last will with gavel

Note: Links to templates for family wills can be found on our main Last Will and Testament page.

They are all in printable form or you can copy and paste it into your word program to edit them to suit your requirements.

Below we address the common mistakes that can make a will invalid and supply answers to a variety of frequently asked questions concerning legal wills.

What Can Make a Will Invalid?

Although laws may differ in various countries, states or provinces, the following (and the list is not necessarily complete) will generally render a will invalid in most instances:

  • The will was not executed (signed and witnessed) in compliance with the requirements of the jurisdiction. For example, the witnesses are also beneficiaries of the will or the will is not signed by the testator and the required number of witnesses or the witnesses signed at a time before the testator did his signing.

    Note: if the witnesses are beneficiaries, a court may accept the will but any bequest made to such witnesses or their spouses will be nullified. However, if the witnesses are the sole beneficiaries, then the entire will may be invalidated. The named executor can sign as witness provided he/she (and spouse) are not beneficiaries.

    The testator must initial every page and sign in full on the last page at the end of the will. The witnesses must see him sign and must then sign in the designated spaces below the testator signature. Any wording added after the signatures will be discarded by the court.
  • The testator does not have the required mental capacity at the time of execution of the will due to mental illness. Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs would also be considered as not having full capacity.
  • The testator lacked understanding of the nature of the document, the extent of his estate, his relationship to those mentioned in the will and his legal or moral duty to make provision for certain people.
  • The witnesses are either under age or otherwise incompetent to act as witnesses.
  • The testator did not execute the document of his own free will but was unduly deceived or influenced or coerced to make the will or the will was made under duress.
  • The will has been revoked. This is typically done by executing a new will with a revocation statement such as: "I hereby declare that this is my last will and testament and that I hereby revoke, cancel and annul all wills and codicils previously made by me..."

    revoke a will

    Generally speaking, if a will has been destroyed i.e. torn up, burnt etc. by the testator, the presumption is that the will has been revoked.
  • The will is made subject to a condition which cannot be fulfilled e.g. a testator states that his farm and all assets be sold to the highest bidder on condition the farm be used to create a communal farm for displaced persons from the testator's land of birth.

    Should this prove to be impossible to execute, the condition may be declared invalid and the testator be held to have died intestate.
  • If a person's marital status changed shortly before death but the testator did not change his will timeously to reflect these changes (i.e. make provision for the new spouse or disinherit the previous spouse) the validity of the will may be challenged.

    In some jurisdictions an entire will may be revoked upon marriage or divorce whilst in other jurisdictions just the provisions specifically relating to a former spouse will be revoked.
  • A child born or adopted after the will was made and therefore not mentioned in the will shall have a claim against the estate.
  • The will presented for probate is not the last (latest) will made by the deceased.

When Can a Person be Disqualified from Inheriting?

If a person unlawfully and intentionally caused the death of the deceased or the deceased's parents, spouse or children, then such a person is unworthy of inheriting from the deceased. Justifiable homicide however, does not disqualify a person from inheriting.

The above will be applicable whether the deceased died without a will (intestate) or did have a legal will.

There are also other instances, depending on the jurisdiction, where a person may be disqualified from inheriting e.g.:

  • A person who falsifies, hides or destroys a valid will;
  • A person who unduly influences a testator will render a will invalid. Thereafter under intestacy law this person will also not qualify to inherit, even if this person would normally have been in line to inherit.

Can Another Person Sign a Will on Behalf of a Will Maker?

authorized signature

Yes. For example, a person may be paralyzed and physically unable to sign or make a mark.

In this event the will can be signed by someone else.

The requirements would be that the testator be present, two (or more) competent witnesses as well as a notary public / commissioner of oaths who will certify the will.

It is of utmost importance to consult with an attorney to ensure the will and attestation clause comply with the legal requirements in your jurisdiction.

What is a Testamentary Trust?

In this instance the testator (person making the will) wants to bequeath assets to a particular beneficiary but needs to place (albeit temporary) ownership and/or control in the hands of another person, namely a trustee.

This is typically done in the case of family wills where the beneficiary is a minor who is not equipped to control the inheritance.

Therefore the trustee is not the owner in his/her own interest, but must administer or control the assets on behalf of and in the interests of (to the benefit of) the trust beneficiary.

It must be clear in legal wills that the testator intended to create a trust, must specify the trust assets and must specify the trust beneficiary, such as in the case of minors.

The testator can also specify a future date when the trust beneficiary will be of age and competent to take full possession and control of the assets. At this time the trust can then be terminated.

This is the short answer, but that's not all...

There are distinct advantages for utilizing this structure in family wills that are well worth exploring!

We discuss this in depth on our page about Testamentary Trusts and also show you how to create a Testamentary Trust Will.

Incidentally, a charitable trust can also be created in this manner.

Note: This is not the same as creating a trust for business purposes!

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