What is a Will

What is a Will

Probate Process

A will is the final intention of someone about how they would like their assets distributed after their death. Many people are reluctant to make a will owing to what they are making, saying that when I'm no longer here this is what I want to happen to all of my possessions. For many it is quite a final statement which takes thinking about. For others it is a kind of satisfaction that they have sorted out their possessions as they wish to. For some it can be a cause of concern as perhaps there are family disputes. For other people it can be a relief that they have now settled their will and have peace of mind.

Some people for many reasons choose not to make a will and die intestate. This can have serious consequences when trying to sort out who should inherit someone's assets and possessions. It can also have tax consequences which may involve further cost in making the will more tax efficient. If there are family disputes as to who should inherit different possessions this is a costly process. The average costs for resolving some inheritance disputes can very quickly run to thousands of pounds.

For further information about intestacy click here

What should I include in my will

If you want to you may include all the items which you own which you would like to pass on to somebody else. It is essential that the person reading the will can identify what the gift or legacy is. In some instances it can be useful to take a photograph of the item and keep this along with the will. This can often help if there is a dispute over what is meant by the item in the will.

Gifts or legacies fall into different categories. For example, 

  • General legacy - property in the estate
  • Demonstrative - from a specific fund
  • Specific - a particular item
  • Pecuniary - a gift of specific money
  • Residuary - whatever is left in the estate after the debts, expenses and any other legacies have been distributed.
  • Gifts may also be made to charities.

Once I've made my will can I change it

A will in essence speaks from death. This means that the will maker can make a will today. Sign it and have it duly witnessed by two witnesses. If they so wish, next week they may make another will revoking the one they made this week. Hopefully someone who makes a will would not wish to revoke the one they had just made the week before. It does mean that there is the option always to update or revoke a will which the will maker believes is out of date or does not reflect the views and wishes.

Another way of amending a will is to add a codicil. A codicil is a small amendment or adjustment to Will which means the entire world does not need to be re-drafted and witnessed again.

I desire my body to be…

In a Will, certainty and accuracy is of the essence. The exception is what happens to our body once we are no longer here.

By putting, "I desire" this means that I am saying to my executors I would like you to do this and not that.

Letter of wishes or side letter

When someone writes their will they may wish to add context or further information specifically to inform the executors about their views and wishes. This is usually done through a letter of wishes or a side letter. This may contain specific instructions as to how to operationalise their will.

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