By | 15 December 2015

Making a Will in Ghana

Anybody who is at least 18 years old can make a will. A will disposes of a person’s present property, as well as the property the person may acquire between the time they make their will, and the time they die. This means you do not have to make a will every time you acquire new property.

The person who makes the will is the “testator”. The persons who benefit from “gifts” under the will are “beneficiaries”. A testator must appoint a person or persons in their will who will ensure that their instructions in the will are carried out. These appointees are “executors”. The law does not set a minimum number of executors, but it is wise (and standard practice) to appoint at least 2. An executor must be at least 21 years old. It is wise to appoint as executors people who are significantly younger than the testator.

A will, once made, can be cancelled or amended either entirely, or in part. This can be done by a totally new will or a supplementary document called a “codicil”.

A will must be signed (called execution) by the testator. Execution must take place in the presence of at least 3 people – the testator and at least 2 witnesses. After the testator signs his signature (he thumbprint too) before the witnesses, the witnesses must sign their signatures too (called attesting) in the presence of each other. Note that when a testator is executing by thumbprint, there must be words to the effect that he understood the contents of the will when the testator executed the will. Note that a beneficiary under the will must not also be a witness to its execution.

The safest place to keep a will is in the registry of the High Court. Upon presentation at the High Court, a will is sealed before it goes into storage for safekeeping.

Note that where a testator disinherits their dependants in a will, the High Court has the power to make reasonable provision for such dependants.

Above all, note that, although a person can make their will without engaging a lawyer, they are better off getting a lawyer to draft it the will involves complex instructions, land and houses and “joint gifts”.