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Isn’t a Handwritten Will Enough for Your Estate Plan?

Posted by M. Margaret Gonsalves-Sabola | Mar 05, 2019 | 0 Comments

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If you are thinking about leaving your assets to family or friends, you may wonder if a handwritten will is enough to pass on your wishes. Typing up a will or going to see a lawyer may seem like a waste of time if you can simply write everything down on a piece of paper. While technically your will can be handwritten, you risk making legal mistakes in preparing it that may make the will or a particular gift under the will invalid. As a result, your intended heirs may not receive your assets in the way you wished.

Why Do Handwritten Wills Have to Follow Legal Formalities?

All wills must meet a specific set of legal formalities to be considered valid and binding. While these laws may seem old fashioned and complicated, they exist to prevent several common problems with inheritances:

  • Confusion about the person making the will's intentions
  • Conflicts of interest between the executor and beneficiaries
  • Outright fraud
  • Undue influence on the person making the will
  • Difficulty interpreting the will (such as reading the handwriting)

Often these problems are discovered after the person making the will has passed away and the executors try to start distributing the estate. Sometimes, the problems lead to disputes in court and years' delay before any heirs receive property.

What Are the Legal Formalities for Making a Will?

Bahamian law, including the Wills Act, explains the formalities for making a will. The law explains the requirement for witnesses to a will's signing. Two or more witnesses must be present at the same time when the person making the will signs or acknowledges it. These witnesses also need to sign the will or acknowledge their signatures in the presence of the person making the will.

Further, handwritten notations on a will may not be valid. If you cross out sections of a handwritten or typed will, you have to execute the will again in the presence of witnesses to verify that you made the changes. Sometimes, this requirement can be a problem for handwritten wills that may have insertions or deletions made as the drafter is writing them out initially.

The Bahamas has a number of other legal requirements for making a valid will. To meet those requirements and avoid the potential consequences of an unenforceable will, take your handwritten wishes to a lawyer. The lawyer can help you get peace of mind that your will is valid and binding.

To find out more about wills and estate planning, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.

About the Author

M. Margaret Gonsalves-Sabola

M. Margaret Gonsalves-Sabola is a civil and commercial litigation attorney and an accredited civil and commercial mediator. Margaret has over 21 years' experience in legal practice in the United Kingdom, Jamaica and The Bahamas.

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