Many solicitors in Wales and England will say a will is only valid if (a) it is in writing, and (b) the person signed it, or another person in their presence acting under their directions. Finally, the signature must also be attested by two witnesses who are both personally present at the time.
However The Gazette believes other, more unconventional methods may also be valid under certain circumstances. We need to take its opinion seriously, because it is the official place to publish notices and proof that this was done. Here are some of their exceptions to the rule.
Holographic Wills Not Quite What We Think
Don’t worry, these are not three-dimensional structures created by light. Holographic wills are written out by hand and signed by witnesses. These are often created in emergency situations where proofreading is something that happens elsewhere.
Take the case of farmer Cecil George Harris who died trapped under his tractor. He scratched the following on the mudguard “In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo. Harris.” A court probated the tractor, waived the need for witnesses, and agreed it was his will.
Holographic wills are however only advisable as a last resort because the document is not reviewed by a legal specialist, and may have ambiguities and legal errors. Spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes can add to the confusion.
Very Short Wills Can Muddy the Water Further
The complex turns of phrase in wills that solicitors draw up are there to avoid any possibly confusion. The case Thorn v Dickens (1906) is a case in point. The testator’s will simply read “All for Mother”. However the testator referred to both his wife and mum as ‘mother’. The probate court decided in that case his ‘mother’ was his wife. If it was unable to decide, then the rules of intestacy would have applied.
The case of Vucicevic and Bond v Aleksic &Ors  revolved over what an immigrant from Montenegro intended to say. For example, he left money to “Brit. Cancer Research” which did not exist. The court divided the money between numerous British cancer charities. It commented “bad English can make a good will as long as we can understand it”.
NonCupative Wills Are Not a Simple Matter Either
Non-cupative means a will made by word of mouth, and not written down and signed. That’s because Section 11 of the 1837 Act, and Section 2 of the Wills (Soldiers and Sailors) Act 1918 says a soldier or member of the naval or marine services is exempt provided they are “in actual military service”.
This means these ‘privileged few’ (an unfortunate phrase) can state their final wishes in the heat of battle when their lives are in imminent danger. However, surviving witnesses must confirm the testator consciously wanted to bequeath their possessions that way.
So What Does This Tells Us About the Validity of Wills?
A will does not have to be written out, and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who attest to it. However, it does make sense to do a spelling and grammar check at least, and print it out to make your wishes come true as intended.