Dr Edgar Paltzer is an attorney-at-law based in Switzerland who provides legal advice on wealth structuring services. This article will look at the importance of making a will with watertight wording to ensure that no question marks remain over how the testator intended to distribute their estate.
A well-drafted will makes the intentions of the testator crystal clear, leaving no room for ambiguity, confusion or uncertainty. Conversely, where a will is poorly worded, this can potentially lead to misunderstandings, resentment, disputes and protracted and costly legal proceedings. To avoid this, the wording of the will must be watertight.
When making a will, it is important to use clear and unambiguous language. It is also important to be accurate and specific, avoiding language that could leave family members or the legal advisors drawing up the will guessing over the testator’s intentions. For example, a statement such as ‘I leave my jewellery to my daughter’ is insufficient and unclear because it fails to identify precisely which items of jewellery the testator wants their child to inherit. Furthermore, it is important to include the beneficiary’s name, even if the testator only has one daughter, to avoid any ambiguity. Ensuring that a will’s wording is clear and concise will significantly reduce the risk of misinterpretation or contestation.
A critical aspect of making a will is ensuring that it is correctly executed and witnessed, with all of the very strict witnessing criteria carefully adhered to. Witnesses do not need to know the content of the will; rather, they are attesting to the fact that the testator signed the will in their presence. In addition, it is important to date the will to avoid confusion where the testator has made more than one.
Making a will enables the testator to control what happens to their estate when they die, choosing who will benefit and what they will receive. If a person dies without making a will, distribution of their estate will be determined according to the intestacy rules, which may not align with their wishes.
Making a will can help to safeguard the family home, ensuring that children are provided for financially. A will can also help to reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable on the value of the property and any money left behind. With unmarried couples, a will can help to protect the surviving partner’s rights. It can also be used to make gifts and donations and name children’s guardians. Ultimately, a carefully crafted will helps to reduce the chance of disagreements or disputes following the death of the testator, ensuring that their estate is distributed in accordance with their wishes.