• Jake Chambers

What can I do with a Will?

Most people think a Will just specifies who gets what after they die. They can this, of course, but also far more. This article outlines other outcomes Wills can achieve, and why every adult should have one.

Gifts or legacies

As already noted, Wills are used to set out who gets the property, assets and possessions owned by the Testator (the person who writes the Will). These gifts can be very specific (e.g “I give my personal registration plate 11JRC to my brother”) or broader (e.g. “I give the contents of all my bank accounts to be shared equally amongst my surviving siblings”). Each have specific implications that need to be considered when determining which approach is most appropriate.


Gifts can also be conditional, can be shared amongst a group of people, and can be given to charities or other organisations. Typically, Wills also state who the residuary estate – everything that remains after all costs, taxes and specific legacies have been settled - will go to.


Executors

Executors are the people names in the Will who will manage the estate of the Testator after their death. You must consider who this should be as they might have a lot of work and responsibility, and you need to trust them to manage the estate and distribute the assets as you have set out.


If you do not choose an executor, or your chosen executor cannot or refused to act, the closest relative can apply to the probate registry to be administer your estate. Unmarried partners are not deemed to be relatives for this purpose.


Guardians

One of the most important decision any parent can make is who to appoint as guardian for any minor children should anything happen to those with parental responsibility.

Pet owners might also consider their furry friends are looked after by appointing trusted friends to look after their pets. They can even leave gifts to help with the upkeep, conditional on taking ownership of the pets.


Funeral wishes

Many set out how they want their funeral to be conducted in their Wills, from their preferences regarding burial, cremation or even the emerging trend of aquamation, to what type of service they want, and with which hymns.


Exclusions

As well as including people you ant to leave gifts for, your Will can specify people you may wish to exclude from inheriting. Some people (including spouses, children and other dependants) have a right to claim against an estate under the 1975 Inheritance Act. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean they will succeed, if you want to exclude people who may have a claim it’s advisable to seek professional advice.


As can be seen Wills are more than just distributing your assets after death. They contain some of the most important decisions you’ll ever make and must be taken very seriously. Some decisions are complex or have hidden consequences, so get specialist advice to make sure your wishes are fully understood and will be followed.