Demystifying Wills

Insights / / Bristol

Many people do not realise the importance of making a Will. Some think it’s self-prophesying and others simply aren’t aware of the impact dying without a Will can have on their family. Phiffany Smith, Wills and Probate Executive at Metcalfes Solicitors translates the legal jargon and explains the benefits of having a Will.


Often when people think of Wills, they dread the complex language that can follow. Below are some definitions of the main terms used:

  • Executor = This is the person who deals with your assets, finalises your position, applies for a Grant of Probate, pays any liabilities and tax and distributes your estate.
  • Trustees = Are often the same people as the Executors.  They look after any assets left in trust, particularly for minor children or vulnerable beneficiaries. 
  • Estate = Your estate comprises of everything you own, from property to personal belongings, savings and investments.
  • Beneficiary = The person or people who inherit your estate. They can be the same people as those you appoint as your Executors / Trustees.
  • Guardians = The person or people you appoint to care and take on parental responsibility of your minor children.
  • Intestate = The term used when you die without leaving a valid Will. There are statutory rules – ‘the Intestacy Rules’ - which would govern who deals with and inherits your estate in this event.

Types of Wills

No “one size fits all” when writing a Will. Below are the most common forms:

  • Standard Will: This type of Will is common when reflecting anyone’s wishes and estate that are of a simple and straightforward nature.  Even if this is the case, it is still a Will that is important to have especially if you have assets of value.
  • Mirror Wills: These are common for couples who have the same wishes in terms of who is to inherit their estates. Although the bulk content of such Wills are the same, there can be small differences between the documents.
  • Trust Wills: Trusts are included in a Will as a protective measure and are popular where people wish to ring-fence assets.  This may be due to a second marriage with child(ren) from a previous relationship, protecting vulnerable beneficiaries, or for  long-term care planning.  There are different types of trust – such as ‘life interest’ trusts or ‘discretionary’ trusts; the type of trust will depend on why it is needed and what you are seeking to achieve, who you want benefiting from the trust funds, and the powers you want your Trustees to have.

 The benefits of having a Will

  • It makes things easier for your family or friends to sort everything out. Simply look what would happen if you do not make a Will? It would be left to the Intestacy Rules to dictate how your assets pass and to whom.  These rules do not take account of co-habiting / unmarried couples.
  • It will make your wishes known – for example, regarding your children, what is to happen to your house, any business and all your other assets in the event of your death.
  • It is vital to have a Will if you want certain wishes to be met after you die; you can look to ensure that the right people get what you want them to have from your estate without any confusion, or distress caused by any uncertainty.
  • A Will helps you plan and protect your family from unnecessary Inheritance Tax being charged. Why pay more tax than you have to?!

Do I need to update my Will?

We recommend reviewing your Will at least every 3-5 years – or sooner if there has been a change in your circumstances, whether personal or financial. Here are some example reasons:·         

  • To ensure your wishes are accurately reflected in view of your new situation.
  • Have you got married / entered a Civil Partnership since making your Will?  Did you know that these events revoke a Will, unless there is a clause in contemplation of such marriage / Civil Partnership?
  • Have you bought a property that is your family’s home?  Does your Will protect the roof over your partner and family’s head if you passed away?  To whom do you ultimately want your share and interest in said property to pass?
  • Have you recently separated or got divorced?
  • Are you in a new relationship and cohabiting with a new partner? Do you have child(ren) from a former relationship? It is important for your Will to protect all your nearest and dearest.
  • Do you have children? It is important to make a Will to at least appoint guardian(s) to look after them should the worst happen.

For further information on making or reviewing you Will, please contact one of our specialist lawyers at Metcalfes Solicitors.  We offer a free 30 minute consultation, or review of your existing Will, and can advise you on your options.

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