Writing a Will: Who, What, Why and How

When talking about inheritance, one word keeps coming back: “will”. Indeed, still nowadays, it remains the basic tool to plan one’s succession. But it is really useful for everyone? Is it possible to write a will on my own? Where to keep it? What to be aware of? What happens if I change my mind? Many questions that often remain unanswered! Here is a small “guide” for greater clarity. 

Is writing a will madatory?

No, you are not obliged to write a will. Indeed, in Belgium, there is a law that determines who inherits from a deceased person if she didn’t leave any will. In such a case, the deceased’s estate will be passed on to the legal heirs, meaning, first of all, the deceased’s partner and direct descendants (children and grandchildren). However, depending on the family situation, other relatives might inherit, for example, the siblings or event the parents!

Yet, the way that your estate will be shared among the heirs according to the law might not suit you. Indeed, you may want to bequeath more to a child encountering difficulties? Or have a friend with whom you have no family relationship inherit? Or donate some of your estate to a charity? In those cases, you need to write a will. Please note that your will may also contain wishes that are not linked with your estate, for example, the type of funeral that you wish or if you wish to donate your body to science

 

What kind of will should I choose? 

In Belgium, there are three types of wills : the authentic one, the international one and the holograph one. And, of course, they all have their own specificities:

  • The authentic will is a notarial act. The testator dictates his wishes, which are received by a notary in the presence of two witnesses (or another notary);
  • The international will is applicable in all countries that have ratified the ad hoc convention. It also requires a notary and two witnesses;
  • The holograph will is written by the testator alone.

Of course, they all have advantages and disadvantages. For example, the authentic will is certainly applicable, but lacks flexibility and is expensive. The same applies to the international will, where the procedure is even more complex and expensive, but it facilitates the inheritance procedure, should it happen in another country. Finally, the holograph must abide by certain rules but is free. 

 

How can I write my own will?

If you decide not to seek the help of a notary and to draw up your holograph will on your own, you need to make sure that those three conditions are respected in order for your will to be applicable:

  • Your will must be entirely written in your own handwriting (and not typed);
  • Your will must be dated (day, month, year), in your own handwriting;
  • Your will must be signed (in your own handwriting) by you and you only. Indeed, a will belongs to one individual only. If, for example, you wish to write the same will as your partner, you both need to copy it on a separate sheet of paper.

If those three conditions are respected, your will will be considered legally binding. However, you also need to write it precisely. Indeed, you need to avoid your will being questioned afterwards because it is ambiguous. When you decide to bequeath something, what precisely do you bequeath? To whom? An individual, a charity or another institution? In total or partially? The answers to all those questions must be found in your will.

A few examples

If you decide to bequeath goods to a charity, make sure that you use its exact name. Writing “the charity taking care of abandoned pets in Brussels” is not enough as there are many of such charities in Brussels.

If you wish to bequeath goods to two of your friends, Mrs A and Mr B and if Mr B dies before you, Mrs A will not inherit from Mr B’s part of your estate, but actually your heirs, unless you mentioned it in your will. The same applies if those friends also have children and if you want them to inherit from the goods that you bequeathed to their parents. You thus need to specify that if one of those friends dies before you, you want your other friends or your friend’s children to inherit from you after your decease. 

Where should I keep my will?

As for the place to keep your will, again, there are several options available to you. If you decided to seek a notary’s help to draw up your will, it will be kept by your notary and registered with the “Central Register of Wills” (CRT), which will allow your heirs to easily find it.

However, if you have written a holograph will, you may choose to keep it wherever you wish: at home or in a bank’s deposit box. You may also file it to a notary in an envelope (a sealed one if you do not wish the notary to read the content of your will). The notary will thus keep your will in a safe place and register it with the CRT. 

 

What if I change my mind?

A will has one major advantage: it is easily revocable. If you wish to cancel it, you simply have to tear it into pieces or to write a new will that revokes the previous one. The same applies if you wish to change (parts of) your will: you only have to write a new one.

 

To conclude 

As you have probably noticed, a will may really turn out to be a useful tool for anyone! Furthermore, it is always revocable! It is thus worth thinking about it. And if you eventually decide to write your own will, do not hesitate to ask for Morning Blue’s expertise. Of course, we will not be able to draw up the will for you, but we will certainly make sure that you think of all the elements to ensure its validity.