Leaving a Will: Verbal vs Written agreements

While many have a legally binding written Will, disputes can arise surrounding agreements, which have been made unofficially between the deceased and their family, friends and other potential beneficiaries.

Verbal agreements 

Verbal contracts are not legally binding and are often spoken between family or friends before an individual dies. If you do not have a written Will your estate will be divided under the rules of intestacy.

Verbal agreements are not generally accepted by the courts, especially where a clear written Will is in place.

It can be a lengthy process to prove that a verbal agreement was made and will require someone to testify that the agreement was made and that the person that made it was serious about their intentions.

Even then if a valid written Will is in place, it can be extremely difficult to overturn this in favour of a deceased person’s word, even where there may have been witnesses to the agreement.

There have been a number of historic disputes fought through the courts where only verbal and not written agreements about inheritance were in place and only in certain cases have original decisions been overturned, such as where other factors like proprietary estoppel apply.

Put simply if you want something particular to happen to your estate after your death, prepare a proper legally binding Will.

However, if you are trying to prove a verbal agreement or have made a verbal agreement with a person who has passed about their estate, you should seek legal advice.

Written Will 

A written Will is a legally binding document, which will be upheld should the individual to whom it belongs passes away.

These documents should be drawn up using legal services and be safely stored away. They are the best way to ensure your estate is passed on to whom you intend.

Having a written Will that is properly witnessed is the best way to avoid complications and can put your mind at ease that your estate will be managed properly in the event of your death.

There are different types of written Wills. A ‘Single Will’ is for people who wish to make a Will independently of any other parties. Meanwhile, many spouse and partner choose to create a ‘Mirror Will’ where their possessions are passed to the surviving partner, or their family and any other beneficiaries after their own death.

There is a range of people involved in a written Will. These include guardians, witnesses, executors, and beneficiaries.

What happens if you die without a written Will? 

In the UK, if you die without a legally binding Will, the rules of intestacy determines who inherits from your estate. If you have no family, your possessions could even be given to the state.

Dying without a will can create complications for your family when distributing your estate upon your death.

This may even lead to your estate not being handled how you intended and lead to costly disputes – particularly where there are conflicting verbal agreements. Having a written will is the easiest and most secure way to ensure that your estate is handled efficiently.

If you need advice on making a will or other related matters. Contact us today. 

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