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A Will is a legal document in which a person expresses how they want their estate to be distributed on their death. Many people put off making a Will, but having a Will in place can make things so much easier for your friends and family after your death.

In order to make it easier for you, we have explained some of the common terminology used and put together some frequently asked questions on Will writing and estate planning.

Will & Estate Planning - Terminology explained

Given that a Will is a legal document, it is important that you understand the terminology. It is likely you will come across some terms that you are not familiar with. Here are the explanations for some of the most common terms used in Will writing:

    • Beneficiary – An individual who receives a bequest/legacy within a Will.
    • Bequest/Legacy – A gift that is made to a person or organisation within a Will.
    • Codicil – A codicil is a document used to change a Will that has already been made.
    • Chattels – All possessions and encompasses all personal belongings in the home, including cars and any pets.
    • Estate – The estate is the total value of everything owned at the time of your death.
    • Executor – The individuals(s) or organisation who has been appointed in a Will to ensure that the testator’s wishes are followed after death.
    • Grant of Probate – A document used by the Court confirming both the validity of a Will and the executor’s right to administer the estate.
    • Guardian – A person who will be responsible for the welfare of a child, they will have parental responsibility until the child turns 18.
    • Inheritance Tax – The tax that is paid on the proportion of the estate that is above the nil rate threshold.
    • Intestate – Used to describe someone who has died without a Will.
    • Intestacy – When an estate is distributed by law, as no valid Will is in place.
    • Probate – When someone dies leaving a Will, the executors of the Will need to apply for probate. Once this is obtained, the executors can manage the estate according to the testator’s wishes.
    • Testator (male)/Testarix (female) - Is the term that refers to the person who has made the Will.

Will & Estate Planning - Frequently asked questions

  1. What is estate planning?

    An estate is everything an individual owns. The estates liabilities (mortgage, loans, credit cards, utility bills, etc.) are deducted from the estate’s assets (property, bank & savings accounts, pension, insurance policies, all possessions, etc.) in order to determine the net value of the estate.   

    Estate planning involves making plans for the transfer of the estate after death. The most basic step in estate planning involves writing a Will in order to ensure; the estate is transferred to the beneficiaries, the inheritance tax is limited and guardians are assigned for any minor children.

  2. Can an Executor of a Will also be a beneficiary?

    Yes, they can. An executor of a Will can also be named as a beneficiary. Anyone who is aged over 18 years of age can be named as an executor. Many people name their spouse or their children, but that does not mean that they have to be written out of the Will. Being an executor can be very time consuming, therefore it is worth checking with an individual that they are willing to be an Executor before naming them.

  3. Can a beneficiary of a Will be a witness?

    No. Anyone who is set to benefit from the Will is unable to act as a witness. A witness needs to be over the age of 18, not related and not nominated within the Will as a beneficiary or executor. In total, two witnesses must see the testator’s Will and see the testator sign the Will. The testator must also watch the witnesses sign the Will. Therefore, everyone must witness each other signing the Will. 

  4. How often should you update your Will?

    It is extremely important that a Will is kept up to date. Government advice is that a Will should be reviewed every five years, but a Will should also be updated if circumstances change. Major life changes could include; buying property, getting married, separating/divorce, having new children/grandchildren or if the executor named in the Will dies.

  5. How do I make changes to my Will?

    A Will cannot be amended after it’s been signed and witnessed. A minor amendment can be made to a Will using a codicil, but this needs to be witnessed in the same way as witnessing a Will.

    For major changes, a new Will should be written. All copies of the old Will should be destroyed and the new Will should explain that it revokes (officially cancels) all previous Wills and codicils.

  6. Does my Will have to be probated?

    Probate is the process by which a Will is validated as being the official Last Will and Testament, and the Executor is given the court authority. Probate can be applied for on the government website, a document called the “Grant of Probate” will be issued by the probate courts. Once in receipt of the “Grant of Probate”, the executor can then start to deal with the estate. You can only avoid probate if all of the assets are jointly owned and going to the other joint owner.

If you need any advice on writing a Will, Funeral Planning Experts can help, contact us for a no obligation quote.

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