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FAQs – Wills

By June 14, 2017January 29th, 2021Wills & Probate

Why do I need a Will?

If you don’t have a Will, most of your assets will pass under the intestacy rules. This means that you have no choice in how they will be distributed when you die. The intestacy rules do not allow cohabitees to inherit automatically. If you are separated but not divorced your spouse might still inherit so that the person that you most want to leave your money to could get nothing, and the person who you wanted out of your life could get everything. Making a Will is a way of ensuring that the people you love are still taken care of, even when you’re not longer around to do it.

What are the intestacy rules?

These rules govern the distribution of a deceased’s estate, if they died without making a Will. Depending on the size of the estate, the assets might pass to a surviving spouse or civil partner. If the estate is over a certain value, there will be some distribution to children too.

If there is no surviving spouse or civil partner but the deceased left children, the estate will be distributed between them, subject to certain conditions.

If the deceased left no children the money will pass to blood relatives, starting with parents, siblings, grandparents, then uncles or aunts. Eventually, if no living relatives can be found the assets will pass to the state. See our “Guide to

Probate” for more detailed guidance on distribution without a Will.

No consideration will be given to a co-habitee under the intestacy rules, no matter how long they have lived with the deceased. This is why it is so important to leave a Will; make sure your assets go where you want them to, be it to a co-habitee, friend or charity.

I’ve seen the term “Legacy” used in a friend’s Will. What does this mean?

A legacy is a specific gift left within a Will to a person or charity. The gift is usually an amount of money or personal items.

What is meant by the residue of an estate?

Once any funeral costs, taxes, other debts, legacies and the costs of administering your estate have been paid, the remaining assets are referred to as the residue of your estate.

What is a mirror Will and is this different to a mutual Will?

A mirror Will is a Will which reflects the terms of another person’s Will. They are commonly used by spouses, civil partners, cohabitees and business partners. The difference between a mirror Will and a mutual Will is that a person with a mirror Will is free to change the terms at any time. However, a mutual Will cannot generally be changed without the agreement of both people, so when the first person dies the surviving person cannot change their own will.

Can anybody witness my Will?

A Will has to be witnessed by two independent people aged over 18. This means that for the Will to be valid, it cannot be witnessed by a person to inherit under it as a beneficiary. There are no conditions as to the professions of any witnesses or the length of time that they have known you.

What is an Executor?

An Executor is the person named in a Will who will deal with the possessions, money and property of the deceased and ensure that they are distributed in accordance with the person’s wishes. The Executor has legal responsibility for administering the estate correctly. It is common for an Executor who was a friend or family member of the deceased to seek the assistance of a solicitor when administering an estate.

Can I appoint somebody specific to look after my children if I die?

Within a Will, it is possible to name a Guardian/Guardians to look after children under the age of 18, should both parents die before their children reach this age. Subject to the willingness of the proposed Guardians and safeguards put in place by social services, these nominations will be usually allow the guardians to look after the children.

Where is the best place to keep my Will?

A Will can be stored anywhere as long as the Executors named within it know where it is. If we have helped you to draft your Will then we will store it free of charge in our secure storage facility until it is required. If another solicitor has been involved in drafting the Will, check with them whether they provide this facility.

Q. Can I change my Will if I want to?

Yes. If there is a simple addition or amendment that needs making to a Will, this can be done by way of a Codicil, which is a simple document that will be read along with the Will after you die. In some circumstances though, it is easier to redraft the Will completely, which can be done, as long as the new Will contains a clause revoking any wills you have made in the past. If you want to change your Will, call us to discuss your options.

Why would I need to use a Solicitor to draft my Will when I could write it myself or use one of the templates available from the supermarket?

A Will can be drafted by anybody but it is important to remember that a Will is always subject to challenge. A template or an online form can’t tell you if you have made a mistake, or give you advice about claims other people could make against your estate.

There are several ways that a Will could be contested: a badly drafted clause can be open to interpretation and the person who wrote the will is not going to be around to help solve any arguments; somebody who has been left out of the Will could argue that it was made under duress by the actual beneficiary; and worst of all, one slight drafting error or a mistake when it is signed could lead to the Will being completely invalid. By using a Solicitor you get the benefit of advice and expertise when the will is prepared. Spending a little bit of extra money now could save your loved ones limitless time and expense in the future.

Chris Burrows

Author Chris Burrows

Chris is a Senior Solicitor and is head of the firm's Private Client department.

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