A Will is a legally binding document giving instructions how your estate is to be distributed when you pass away. You can appoint executors to deal with your estate and appoint guardians for minor children.
An Executor is someone named in a Will, who is given the legal responsibility to take care of a deceased person’s estate. Their duties include locating all of your assets, paying your funeral expenses and any outstanding debts, and making sure your estate is distributed to the beneficiaries you have named in your Will. You need a minimum of 1 executor. You can name as many as you like but only 4 can act at the same time.
Yes, they can. It’s quite common to name a beneficiary as an executor.
Many people choose their spouse or civil partner or their adult children to be an executor.
A trustee’s role differs from an executor’s, even though it is common to appoint the same people in both roles. A trustee will manage any ongoing trusts that are created by your Will, so they will take over responsibility for any assets left to trust once the executors have completed the administration.
Guardians are people who you appoint to take on the care of your minor child or children should you pass away while your children are under 18. You can appoint guardians in your Will, and it is recommended you do so if you have minor children.
A guardian can act as an executor in your Will.
Most people with minor children already have a good idea of who they’d want to care for their children if the worst happened. The main things to consider are your proposed guardians’ own situation and experience with children, their willingness to act, your children’s relationship with them, their physical location – would the children need to relocate? It’s also important to consider how the children would be looked after financially.
A beneficiary is someone who receives part or all of your estate, in your Will.
Funeral wishes can certainly be included within a Will. It is important to note, however that funeral wishes are not legally binding. If you have very specific and detailed wishes you may wish also to set out those wishes in a separate document, for example in a letter. It would also be prudent to discuss your funeral wishes with your family/executors.
Residue is everything that remains after any debts, taxes, expenses and legacies have been made. The residue is not itemised as you will not know what will be in your estate when you die. You can state what percentage share each beneficiary receives, if you are naming more than one person. Spouses can leave the residue to each other and then to pass to your child/children. You can name reserve beneficiaries.
Your Will should include a clause passing care of your pets to the person whom you would like to care for them. Not everyone is willing or able to look after a pet and, it is a good idea to discuss the matter with the person you would like to take care of your pets before you make your will.
If you die without a Will the ‘Rules of Intestacy’ will apply. This means that your estate will be distributed according to a strict order and your assets may pass to people who you’d prefer not to inherit from you.
If you are unmarried then your partner will not inherit anything from you without a Will in place.
If you don’t have a Will and you have minor children and there is no surviving parent, someone else will decide who will look after your children, as no guardian will have been appointed.
As long as you have testamentary capacity you are free to change or revoke your Will as you please. It is recommended to review your Will every 3-5 years or on certain life events such as marriage, divorce, birth of children, death of any beneficiary, or if your financial situation changes. A Will is automatically voided if you get married after you have made it, unless it is drawn up in contemplation of marriage.
It is essential that you consider writing a new Will if there are major changes to your marital circumstances.
Your Will becomes a legally valid and binding document as soon as it has been signed, date and witnessed correctly.
Your signature must be witnessed by two people who must be present with you as you sign and date your Will. The witnesses are only confirming that it is your signature ‐ they do not need to read your Will or know its contents.
An executor, trustee or guardian can act as a witness. Friends, neighbours and work colleagues can also be witnesses and your witnesses can be married to each other.
However no one who is mentioned in your Will as a beneficiary, can act as witnesses, neither can their spouses.
A Will is not valid unless it is signed by both the testator and two witnesses.
If you need advice or someone to help you
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