A simple guide to wills
Do you want to make sure your wishes regarding your money, possessions and property are carried out after you die? We provide legal expertise for wills and probate and answer your questions.
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A will determines how your assets are to be divided in the event of your death. It's a formal document that must comply with strict legal requirements concerning both the document and the way it's executed.
Types of wills
- Straightforward wills: If you're aged 18 or above, and you wish to leave your estate and/or gifts to your loved ones.
- Mirror wills: These are two almost identical will documents. If you're married, in a civil partnership or an unmarried couple and have similar wishes about what should be included in your wills then mirror wills may be the answer. When one of the parties dies then everything commonly passes to the other person. Provisions are generally put in place about how the estate should be distributed after both parties have passed away.
- Will trust: Sometimes it may be beneficial to have a testamentary trust written into your will. With a will trust you can protect your property and other assets you wish to pass on to your loved ones. Will trusts are also a way to provide for children and ensure vulnerable loved ones are taken care of when you die. A trustee is nominated to manage the trust on behalf of the people who stand to benefit, known as the beneficiaries, for the lifetime of the trust. Setting up a trust will can be quite complex. .
- Living wills: With a living will (also known as Advanced Decisions) provided you have mental capacity you can give directions about medical treatment you wish to accept or refuse. For example this may be influenced by religious or other values and beliefs or you may want to determine how far treatment should go if your condition is declared 'terminal'.
Writing a will
A good place to start when considering making a will is to write a list of your assets and carefully think about who you'd like to leave your estate to.
Content of a will
Your will can cover various topics and it may be more or less complex depending on the assets in your estate and the beneficiaries you wish to include. . Common questions you may want to answer when considering how you want your Will to be drafted are the following:
- Who do you want to benefit from your will (i.e. friends, families and charities)?
- Are there assets, e.g. furniture, jewellery, family heirlooms or collections that you want to give to a specific person?
- Who do you leave your property to? If it's a jointly owned property, it will automatically go to the other party. It is possible to 'sever' the joint ownership so you can leave your half of the property as you wish under your will. It is important to consider giving your property to a direct descendant or spouse as this may result in a lower inheritance tax bill.
- Do you want to give the right of residency to current tenants or occupiers of a property?
- Consider children, parents and pets that you want to be taken care of.
- If you have digital assets, make sure you consider them in your will. Provide a list of passwords to the executor but don't put any sensitive information into the will itself.
- What do you want to happen if any of your beneficiaries die before you?
- Do you want to state any funeral wishes?
- Who do you want to appoint as your executor(s)? Someone to act on your behalf and fulfil the wishes in your will. For more information about executors, .
Writing a will can be complex. Contact us to speak to our specialist wills and probate solicitors who can guide you through the process.
Reviewing a will
Once you've got your will in place, you should regularly review it to ensure it reflects any changes in your life and how these may have impacted on you wishes. Circumstances where you may want to review your will include:
- Getting married or entering into a civil partnership (this automatically revokes your Will)
- Getting divorced (this does not automatically revoke your Will)
- Having children
- Buying property or other high value assets
Signing a will
Your will is not valid unless and until it has been properly executed.
Storing a will
Your will needs to be easily found when it's needed. We advise you not to hide it somewhere in your home, but to keep it safe with a solicitor, a bank or a will storage company. Make sure someone you trust, for example your assigned executor, knows where your will is stored and has access to it.
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