Produced by Tolley in association with Higgs & Sons

The following Trusts and Inheritance Tax guidance note Produced by Tolley in association with Higgs & Sons provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Wills
  • What is a Will?
  • Formalities for making a valid Will
  • Age
  • Mental capacity
  • Knowledge and approval
  • Requirements relating to the document itself
  • Drafting the will
  • Revocation of a valid Will or codicil
  • Property that may be disposed of under a Will
  • More...


What is a Will?

A Will is a written document in which a person records his wishes that are intended to take effect after his death. His wishes may be set out in more than one document (perhaps dealing with his property in different parts of the world) and thus it is possible to have more than one valid Will. Any changes or additions to a Will may be made by one or more codicils. The Will and its codicils are regarded and interpreted as one document.

The primary purpose of a Will is to provide for the disposal of property after death. It may also be used to express other wishes including the appointment of executors and guardians for minor children and to give direction for the disposal of the deceased’s remains.

A Will (together with its codicils, if any) takes effect only on death; it cannot confer benefits while the testator is still alive. Also, a Will cannot limit dealing with property during his lifetime and, until death, the Will can always be amended or revoked.

Formalities for making a valid Will

In order to be valid, both the testator and the document have to satisfy a number of requirements.


A testator has to be 18 years old or over to make a valid Will. There is a rule that a person under the age of 18 can make a Will if he is a member of the Armed Forces on active service, but this is extremely rare in practice today.

Mental capacity

A Will is only valid if the testator was of sound mind, memory and understanding when he signed the Will or when he gave instructions for the Will to be drawn up. The common law test for capacity was set out by the court in the case of Banks v Goodfellow and the statutory test is in the Mental Capacity Act 2005, s 2. The principles established by Banks v Goodfellow are that a testator shall:

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