England - If a will is lost (before the person dies) and an unsigned copy exists, is it valid, if properly signed and witnessed? The only issue I can think of is that the date in the will will be many years before the dates on the signatures.

(When searching for information on this I am only swamped with articles about wills that are missing when the person dies)


1 Answer 1


There is a common law rule known as presumption of revocation. This means that if the original will cannot be found, there is a presumption that the testator intentionally revoked it by destroying it.

As with any presumption, it can be rebutted. The burden of proof will lie with the person trying to allege the validity of the will to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the testator did not destroy the will. This will depend on the circumstances of the case. For example, it is easier to rebut the presumption if evidence shows that the testator left the original with a solicitor who since went bankrupt.

An unsigned copy if very weak evidence of the original will and highly unlikely to prove that there was an original signed version at all, nevermind rebut the presumption of revocation, unless combined with other convincing evidence.

So the most likely case is that there is effectively no original will. In any case, by properly executing the copy, you will create a new will which will automatically revoke any previous will. To avoid any possibility of someone later trying to claim that the newly signed copy is invalid based on any potentially conflicting dates (e.g. by arguing it was forged), it may be best to type out and print a fresh version. There is really no reason not to do that. As pointed out in the comments, there is nothing special about the original piece of paper vs the copied one vs a newly typed one. What makes a will valid is complying with the steps set out in Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837:

(1) No will shall be valid unless—

(a) it is in writing, and signed by the testator, or by some other person in his presence and by his direction; and

(b) it appears that the testator intended by his signature to give effect to the will; and

(c) the signature is made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time; and

(d) each witness either - (i) attests and signs the will; or (ii) acknowledges his signature, in the presence of the testator (but not necessarily in the presence of any other witness),

but no form of attestation shall be necessary.

As soon as you carry out those steps, a valid will comes into existence.


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