Hints on Making a Will - Some "Don'ts" - A Simple Formula

Don't put off making your will until you feel ill and are in the fear of death. It is much better to make your will when you are feeling well and strong, and able to think over the matter quietly; and, as life is uncertain, it should not be postponed until your old age.

Don't imagine that the making of your will will hasten your end in any way. It is merely a wise precaution against your property being disposed of contrary to your wishes and intentions and going to the wrong people - that is all.

Making a New Will

Don't make a new will without first destroying all previous wills.

Don't forget, if you marry, to make a new will after you are married; every will is cancelled by marriage.

Don't forget to date your will, and don't forget to sign it at the end, in the presence of two witnesses, who must both sign their names and addresses after and under the signature.

Don't forget to initial any alteration or interlineations in your will, and don't forget to make your witnesses initial them also.

Don't choose for witnesses people whom you intend to benefit by your will.

Don't leave legacies to the wives or husbands of your witnesses. If you do, they will never get them. Don't leave legacies to the witnesses themselves, the legacies will fail. If you want to remunerate your witnesses for their trouble, you must make them a present then and there.

Don't forget to appoint an executor, or two or more executors if there are many legacies or much property to deal with, to carry out the provisions of your will.

Don't leave out people's names and description. For example, in your bequest to your wife or husband, don't describe them as "my beloved," but as "my beloved wife," adding her Christian name. A man left all his property to his wife, making her his sole executrix, but describing her in his will as "my dearly beloved," and it was held that the bequest was uncertain and did not give the property to the wife.

A bequest to servants, however, without naming them is good, and all those in service with the testator at his death will benefit under the will.

Uncertain Gifts

Don't be uncertain in your gifts. A bequest of "some of my best linen" is void on account of its uncertainty; you must state how much the legatee is to have.

Don't be under the impression that a will docs not dispose of property acquired subsequent to the date of the will; everything at the time of your death will pass under your will.

Don't impose impossible conditions on your legatees. But you can prohibit your children from marrying before they are twenty-one years of age; you can deprive your son of his income if he marries a barmaid; or your daughter of hers, if she marries the chauffeur; or your wife of hers, if she marries again.

An Instance

A lady gave the income of certain property to her niece, who was her adopted daughter, and her niece's husband during their joint lives, and to the survivor during his or her life, with a proviso that if he survived his wife and married again, the property should go over. The man did marry again, and the gift over took effect.

Don't try to give a life interest in perishable articles, such as the contents of your valuable cellar or your store cupboard, but you can limit a gift of household furniture or even of wearing apparel, although it is generally inconvenient and inadvisable to do so.

Don't keep on adding fresh codicils to your will, three or four codicils should be the outside number. After that it is better to destroy the whole and make a fresh will.

A Simple Formula

Below is a simple form of will by which a husband leaves everything to his widow:

This is the last Will of me (name of testator), of etc., made this ------- day of -------, 1912. I hereby revoke all former wills and codicils made by me, and do now devise and bequeath all my real and personal estate to my wife (name) absolutely, and appoint her the sole executrix of this my will.

Signed (testator's signature).

Witnessed (signatures, addresses, and description of two witnesses).

In conclusion, though it is not necessary to draw up a will in any particular form, every care should be exercised that the will should be stated so clearly that there is no difficulty found by the executors in carrying out the wishes of the testator or testatrix. Therefore, though wills have been written on insignificant pieces of paper, bestowed in odd corners, and in the end have been duly carried out, it is only fair to give no loophole for doubt or uncertainty, and the aid of a competent person should be employed.

If for any reason this help is not forthcoming, then the simplest and clearest of language should be employed, and legal phrases, often imperfectly understood, should be avoided.