Privileged Wills - What are they and when are they valid?

Privileged Wills are made by those who are in active military service, which means that they are either working in an operational area in the Forces or are just about to be posted to one. This does not just apply to soldiers on the front line, it is also possible for civilian support staff to execute a privileged Will if they are being posted into an operational area. 

In law, the usual position regarding a Will is that it must be signed by the person meaning to give effect to the Will, in the presence of two independent witnesses, and that the person making the Will must be an adult. 

By contrast, a 'privileged Will' is an informal Will which does not comply with these formalities, but can nevertheless be valid. The advantage of this is that it can be made at short notice where a person is about to put their life at risk. 

A privileged Will is usually written down but can even be an oral declaration. There is no requirement for any witnesses, although an oral declaration must of course be witnessed for there to be any evidence of it. The executor of the Will can be a minor, which is especially important given that many troops are ordered into combat before they reach the age of 18. 

A privileged Will can be made as soon as orders are received that a person is to be posted in an operational area. During that posting, the maker of the Will remains 'privileged' and can revoke the Will informally; however once the officer or member of staff finishes their post the Will remains valid in the same way as a formal Will, and the privilege no longer applies Thereafter, the Will must be revoked formally. 

Ashfords' Trusts and Estates team can assist on any matters regarding a will or trust. In the unfortunate event of a dispute in relation to a deceased person's estate or a trust please contact Robert Horsey.

Ashfords LLP is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.  The information in this note is intended to be general information about English law only and not comprehensive.  It is not to be relied on as legal advice nor as an alternative to taking professional advice relating to specific circumstances.  

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