What is a Privileged Will?

A Privileged Will is an informal will which remains valid even though it does not fulfil the usual legal requirements. Privileged wills are normally written but can be oral. What distinguishes this type of Will from a conventional Will is the fact that normal formalities are dispensed with. So, a Privileged Will does not, for instance, need to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses as is usual; in fact, there is no need for any witnesses at all for the will to be valid. Nor do any alterations to a Privileged Will need to be witnessed. These will be presumed to have been made whilst the maker of the Will still had privileged status, even if their circumstances have changed.

Who can make a Privileged Will?
They are usually made by men or women who are in “active military service”. This would include Service personnel who are imminently likely to be posted into an operational area. The power to execute a Privileged Will extends to civilian support staff such as nurses, cooks and administrators as well as front line personnel.

Do you have to be in an active war zone to make one?
No. If you are eligible to make a Privileged Will then you can do so as soon as you receive orders that you are to be posted into an operational area. This can even apply after the war or conflict has officially ended. A formal state of war need not exist but there must be “war like” operations.

How old do you have to be to make a Privileged Will? Is there a need for them nowadays?
Again, the formalities required to make a conventional Will are dispensed with. Therefore, Privileged Wills can be made by people under the legal age of 18 years old. This is very important since the Armed Forces recruit many young men and women under 18 years of age who would otherwise be unable to make a conventional Will. So, the ability to make this special type of Will still has its advantages, especially for youngsters who are joining up.

How long does a Privileged Will remain valid?
It remains valid after the war has ended and even after the maker of the Will has left the forces or has been removed from the dangers of military operational duties.

Can a Privileged Will be revoked without the usual formalities?
Yes, but only while the maker remains in privileged status. If they have left the services and/or the war zone then they must revoke the Will conventionally, in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Wills Act 1837.

Are the assets left in a Privileged Will subject to Inheritance Tax?
Under s154 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984, exemption from Inheritance Tax will be allowed on the estates of members of the Armed Forces (including former members) where active service has contributed to their death.

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What is a Privileged Will?