Making Wills in Jersey
Making Wills in Jersey
Do I need a lawyer to make a Will?
Jersey has strict rules on completion of Wills which are different depending upon whether you are leaving land (Immovable Estate) or other property such as money (Movable Estate). If a Will does not conform to the rules then the Probate Registrar (in relation to a Movable Will) and the Public Registrar (in relation an Immovable Will) may well refuse to accept the document for registration once the testator has died.
In order to be valid an Immovable Will must be dated, read aloud and witnessed by a Jersey qualified lawyer or member of the States of Jersey and must also be witnessed by another person over the age of 18 who is not related to the will maker and are not included in the Will.
An Immovable Will can leave periods of enjoyment of land or property. The periods of enjoyment can be limited to a specific period of time or can be for the lifetime of a beneficiary. It usual for the person have the enjoyment of the land or property to be responsible for insuring it, paying for its internal up keep and notifying the reversionary beneficiaries of any structural problems. The Immovable Will can however limit the obligations placed on the person with the enjoyment to make it less onerous.
It should be noted that children have no entitlement to claim in relation to a parent’s land. A surviving spouse/civil partner can claim life enjoyment of the family home if they have not been provided for in the Will.
A property that is owned “jointly and for the survivor” will pass to the survivor without reference to the other person’s Will. Ownership passes automatically. The way the property is owned is defined in the contract of purchase.
Except for one exception, in order to be a valid Movable Will it must be dated and witnessed by two independent witnesses over the age of 18 who themselves are not related to the Will maker and are not included in will.
A Movable Will should appoint an Executor to deal with the assets. You can name more than one Executor and also name an alternative Executor in case the first named person has predeceased you or cannot take up the role.
A Movable Will can list specific items or sums of money you wish to leave to people. The items should be sufficiently well described to avoid any dispute over their distribution.
Each person who is named as beneficiary should be named in full, including maiden names. It is also recommended that a current postal address for the beneficiaries is included so that the Executor has a starting point for tracing the beneficiary if they are not already known to them.
Under Jersey Law Spouses/Civil Partners and children can bring claims against Movable Estates for a share of the assets if they are not left their legal entitlement.
If there is a surviving spouse and no children then the spouse is entitled to two-thirds of the Movable Estate. If are also children then the spouse is entitled to one-third and the children are entitled to one-third. There is free disposition over the remaining one-third. If there is no surviving spouse but children then the children are entitled to two-thirds.
A Will is not invalid if it does not leave a spouse and/or children their entitlement. It is for the excluded party to bring their claim for a share of the Estate within a year and a day from the date of death of the testator.
The form a Will takes must be acceptable to the Court. It does not accept pro-forma Wills which are partially printed and partially handwritten.
The exception which does not require witnesses is a holographic (handwritten) Will which must be entirely written in the hand of the testator. It is not acceptable for a third party to write the Will unless it is then witnessed by two independent witnesses.
Any difficulties with the registration of Wills are referred to the Royal Court by way of a Representation. Any application to the Court will incur significant costs and so it is important when preparing and completing a Will that the testator ensure that the document is going to be valid and acceptable to the Court.
By using a lawyer any issues or concerns can be discussed and the requirements for completion of the Wills dealt with properly.
It can cost your beneficiaries tens of thousands of pounds in fees if a Court application is required to deal with an ambiguous or defective will, and it is relatively inexpensive to make a will.
Recently the Guardian reported that in the UK the number of will disputes has risen sharply over the past decade – over 700% according to official Ministry of Justice figures. But despite the increase in bitter legal battles, more than two thirds of us die without leaving a will. (24 February ’15)
Remember to ring around to get quotes for making a Will from several Jersey Law firms; it would be prudent to always ask if costs are fixed or per hour and if there is opportunity for discounts for multiple wills. You may receive a favourable price from the law firm also acting on your behalf for other legal activities.