Every person over the age of 18 should have a Will, as without one, a person dies in a state of intestacy, meaning that where the deceased person’s property goes must be determined by the State in accordance with legal principles related to intestacy.
A well drafted Will is a legal document that enables a person (known as the Testator) to ensure that his or her wishes are respected after death with regard to how property owned by the Testator is distributed.
In Fiji, to be a valid Will it must comply with the Wills Act, 1972 which includes the requirement that the Testator’s intentions must be witnessed by two witnesses who are not beneficiaries of the Will. The strict legal formalities that lead to the formation of a valid Will are why it is advisable to seek a lawyer’s advice before the Will is prepared. The engagement of a private lawyer is not necessary, as the Legal Aid Commission may also provide competent advice in this regard, although before engaging any lawyer (public or private) it is important to understand what charges may apply to administer the estate via what is known as a grant of probate. Probate is the process by which the appointed executors of the Will are appointed by the High Court of Fiji to execute the Will of the Testator in favour of the persons who will benefit from the Testator’s wishes (Beneficiaries).
In this commercial law update we provide some general guidance (not legal advice) on how to minimise the chances of a Will being challenged and overturned by the Court.