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Service Personnel and Wills

This note provides guidance to Regular Service and Reserve personnel on the writing and recording of Wills together with arrangements for their storage. It focuses mainly on: the use of the MOD Form 106 (Basic Will Form for Service Personnel); the storage of Wills at the Document Handling Centre (DHC); and the requirement to record Will information on JPA. This item also introduces the extension of the DHC Will storage service to non-mobilised Reserves

The intention of a Will is to ensure that a deceased person’s estate (money, possessions and property) is distributed to beneficiaries in accordance with the deceased person’s wishes. If a person dies without a valid Will they are termed intestate and their estate will be divided up according to a standard legal formula. This might not be what the deceased would have wanted.

The recommended methods of making a Will available to Service personnel (SP) can be summarised as follows:

As for Civilians:
(1) By drawing up a Will on expert advice.
(2) By using one of the printed forms which can be purchased.
(3) By writing a simple Will on a sheet of paper.

Methods available to Service personnel only:
(1) Use of the MOD Form 106.
(2) Exceptionally, usually during war time, by making informal unwitnessed wills, but these should be replaced with a formal Will at the earliest opportunity.

The MOD does not mandate which method is used, or that a Will be made. However, it is the responsibility of Commanding Officers to ensure that their personnel are both encouraged and provided with the opportunity to complete a Will.

MOD Form 106 (Basic Will Form for Service Personnel) provides a template for a basic Will where the distribution of the estate is limited to not more than four beneficiaries and no conditions are to be applied. Wherever the distribution of an estate is not straightforward (e.g. where it is to be split between numerous parties in varying proportions and/or subject to conditions) personnel are advised to consult a solicitor or specialist advisor.

The MOD does not mandate where any Will is stored, but Regular Service and Reserve personnel are able to store their Wills at the DBS Document Handling Centre (DHC) in Glasgow free of charge. This facility is available both for Wills created using the MOD Form 106 template and those created privately. Stored Wills may be replaced with new Wills at any time or, on request, returned to testator (writer of Will) without replacement.

There is a Service requirement to record the status and whereabouts of a person’s Will on JPA, or the fact that the Service Person (SP) has chosen not to make a Will or declare their intentions to the Services.

It is emphasized that the MOD cannot provide advice on the content of a Will in terms of intended beneficiaries, apportionment, conditions to be applied, or specific wording. This is entirely a personal matter, advice on which, if required, should be sought from a solicitor or other specialist advisor. However, personnel should be reminded of the importance of both making a Will and updating it promptly if circumstances change.

Reserve personnel submitting Wills should be aware that, in the event of their death whilst mobilised, there is an automatic process for providing the Will details to the Emergency Contact (EC)/Next of Kin (NOK)/Executor, but that, in the event of their death whilst not mobilised, there is no such process. To cover these circumstances, all Reservists should be aware that when lodging their Will that they are responsible for informing their EC/NOK/Executor or Personnel Representative of the important role they will have in reporting their death to the Reserve Unit, if it occurs when they are not mobilised or on duty, to set in motion procedures to recall the Will.

It is important that Will details are recorded on JPA to assist the JCCC in the event of death. This action is undertaken by Unit HR Admin but may usefully be combined with the update/verification of Next of Kin (NOK) and Emergency Contact (EC) details; although it should be made clear that the nomination of a NOK and EC is entirely separate from and in no way removes the need for making a Will or conveys any right to inherit. The distinction between NOK and EC is critical and the opportunity should be taken to explain this, as well as to explain that the beneficiaries and Executor of a Will need not necessarily be either the NOK or EC.

It is important that Wills are updated immediately to reflect any changes to personal circumstances (e.g. marriage, civil partnership, divorce, change of partner, births, or death of a named beneficiary). It is also important to update JPA quickly to reflect this so as to ensure that the correct Will is issued to the family/Executor. 16.

Only Unit HR Admin can enter Will location onto JPA and control the despatch of Wills to the DHC. This is to enhance the visibility of Wills in transit to the DHC. It is important therefore that personnel not only notify the nominated executor and/or beneficiaries immediately when a new Will has been written but also Unit HR Admin staff so that the detail can be recorded on JPA.

Examples of good practice and common errors are provided below:

Examples of Good Practice

1. Don’t put off making a Will.
2. Take the time to write (or type) your Will legibly, comprehensively and unambiguously.
3. Tell your family that you have made a Will, where you have stored it and who is the named Executor.
4. Ensure that the location of your Will is recorded on JPA.
5. Keep a photocopy of your latest Will, with a note explaining where the original is stored, with your important papers at home for reference (noting that only the original signed Will is legally valid).
6. Check your Will regularly and after any significant change of circumstances (e.g. marriage, divorce, separation, change of partner, death of beneficiary, change of address, births) to ensure it reflects your latest  circumstances/wishes. If it doesn’t, make a new Will immediately.

Examples of common Errors

1. Will forms not signed, dated, witnessed, or otherwise completed correctly (e.g. beneficiary or Executor not named).
2. Will forms contain crossings out. This is not permitted; if an error is made a new form must be completed.
3. Will envelope/covering letter not correctly completed. 
4. Will form sent without covering letter (JPA N004).
5. Will form completed, handed to Unit Admin staff but not sent to the DHC (SP to check via JPA (Self Service–Employee > Extra Information Types > Will Information)).
6. Not updating Will on marriage, divorce or entering a civil partnership; Wills may become invalid as a result of these changes. 
7. Commanding Officer named as executor without their knowledge or agreement.
8. Witness named as a beneficiary; any such bequest would be invalid.

Further specific information is available on Defence Internal Note 01-091 on the Defence Intranet (internal users only), or contact your Unit HR.