Validity of Wills—privileged Wills
Validity of Wills—privileged Wills

The following Wills & Probate guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Validity of Wills—privileged Wills
  • Statement of the privilege
  • Soldier being in actual military service
  • Mariner or seaman being at sea
  • Any member of Her Majesty's naval or marine forces
  • Extent of the privilege
  • Will contents
  • Gifts to witnesses
  • Minors
  • Alterations
  • more

Statement of the privilege

In English law, the Statute of Frauds 1677, enabled soldiers and sailors to make informal Wills. Section 11 of the Wills Act 1837 provides 'that any soldier being in actual military service, or any mariner or seaman being at sea, may dispose of his personal estate' without any formalities.

The Wills (Soldiers and Sailors) Act 1918 (W(SS)A 1918) provides that testamentary dispositions of real property (as well as personalty) can be made by privileged Will.

There are three categories of privileged testators:

  1. a soldier in actual military service

  2. a mariner or seaman being at sea

  3. any member of Her Majesty's naval or marine forces so circumstanced that, if they were a soldier, they would be in actual military service

Soldier being in actual military service

'Soldier' is interpreted broadly and includes officers and every rank and service, full-time or part-time, eg members of the Army Reserve (formerly the Territorial Army) and members of the Royal Air Force (RAF), but not civilian airmen.

To be privileged a soldier is required by section 11 of the Wills Act 1837, to be in 'actual military service' when making their Will.

Difficulties have been experienced, and a number of cases decided, in respect of the meaning of 'actual military service'. Sir H J Fust in Drummond v Parish thought that because privileged