When do I need to write a Will?

Please see our webpage which deals with this question in depth.

Essentially, though, if you own property or have a child you certainly need a Will. Please contact us to find out more.

How do I make sure my Will is valid?

The best way is to take legal advice. However, if you wish to make your Will without advice, then you must make sure that your signature is witnessed by two independent witnesses who watch you sign your Will and then sign their names at the same time as a record of this. All three signatures should be recorded on the Will document and this must be dated at the same time.

The drafting of the provisions of the Will must also be clear and specific amongst other things.

If the Will is unsigned or is not witnessed and dated, it will be of no effect and as if it does not exist.

What is the role of an executor?

An executor is the person or people you appoint to administer your estate and obtain probate on your death. An executor can also be a beneficiary in the Will.

Executors are responsible for obtaining valuations of all your estate, paying any liabilities, collecting in all assets distributing the correct assets to your chosen beneficiaries in accordance with your Will. Acting as an executor can be a huge responsibility. Executors you name in your will should be people you trust and you should discuss the role with them before appointing them. If you cannot think of any person you wish to appoint as executor, or if you have a particularly complicated estate may be preferable to appoint professional Executors.

What is the role of a trustee?

A Trustee is the person or people you appoint to manage a trust under your Will. It is a long term role and should not be undertaken lightly. Trustees should be chosen carefully as they will be responsible for making decisions concerning money and providing for your beneficiaries under the Trust who would normally be children or vulnerable people.

You may appoint up to four trustees to act together. You may appoint just one trustee, however it is preferable to appoint at least two and necessary to appoint two trustees where land is involved

What does the term 'Beneficiary' mean?

A beneficiary is someone who benefits from a gift under your Will.

Who can act as a Witness to my Will?

Anyone who is unrelated to you. A beneficiary or anyone mentioned in your Will, cannot act as your Witness.

Two witnesses are required. A will can be witnessed by anyone over the age of 18 who has the requisite capacity. A blind or mentally unsound person cannot witness a Will. If you have appointed a solicitor as an executor for your will, they can act as a witness. A witness may not receive any benefit from your Will, nor may the spouse or civil partner of a witness. It is therefore preferable that the witnesses are people who are not mentioned in the Will.

The witnesses you choose should ideally be younger than you as they may be called upon to confirm the validity of your Will if it is ever contested.

You may choose to use a neighbour or a work colleague. If a witness was to benefit from your Will then the gift will fail.

What is an Expression of Wishes?

A letter or expression of wishes is a document which should be kept with your Will and is used to give instructions to your trustees as to what you would like to happen to your estate.

It can also be used to give guidance to appointed guardians on how to care for your children, or to provide your reasons for excluding a person from your Will.

You can update this at any time and it is does not need to witnessed in the same way as a Will.

It is not legally binding and is purely an indication of what you would,like to happen.

It is commonly used to support a discretionary trust and give general direction to the Trustees and is also a convenient way of leaving a list of items to specific beneficiaries eg my gold watch to my son. It is therefore a very convenient document to draw up as it can be amended over time as things change and this can be done without specific legal advice. It is usually kept with the Will so that the executors know of its existence.

Please contact us if you would like more information or would like to arrange one.

What is a Codicil?

This is an amendment to your Will after the Will has been signed and dated. It is usually done at a later date and is designed to amend a specific provision in the Will.

A codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same way as a Will.

Please contact us if you require further information.

Can a copy of the Will be produced on Probate if the original will is lost?

Not usually. The Probate Court requires the original Will to be produced.

In exceptional circumstances a copy of the Will can be used to apply for probate. Instead, a very detailed affidavit (legal statement) must be made by the Executor applying for probate. The executor must confirm that the original Will was validly executed, and clarify the circumstances relating to the loss of the original Will and what attempts have been made to trace it. They must also provide details of the people would stand to lose out of the copy Will were admitted to probate. (The people who would inherit under the Rules of Intestacy)

Contact us if you have any such problems for further advice.

Where can a Will be safely stored?

Many people store their Wills with the bank or firm of solicitors. Others keep their own documentation. Please note that the original Will is needed at death to apply for a grant of probate so you must inform your Executors of its whereabouts.

We offer a storage facility, please click here to find out more.

What is Intestacy?

The Intestacy rules apply when someone dies without a Will. These dictate how your estate is distributed in priority order amongst your family. Many people would not want their estate to pass in this way and therefore it is very important to make sure that you make your Will and ensure that you gift your estate to the people or charities you choose.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

Please see our webpage which deals with this question in depth.

What is Severance of Tenancy?

This question relates to property ownership and the way in which people own property together.

Joint owners can either own property as joint tenants or tenants in common. In brief, where a property is held as joint tenants, the property will pass to the survivor on death without the need for probate; whereas, for tenants in common, the share owned by the deceased passes in accordance with the provisions in the Will.

Severance of tenancy is where a joint tenancy is converted into a tenancy in common. This means that property which is formerly held jointly and severally in non- specific shares becomes split into specific shares. Tenancy in common is used more and more frequently, particularly when divorce proceedings are underway and also for tax planning.

Please contact us if you wish to receive advice on this issue.

What is First Registration of Title?

This is the process of registering unregistered title deeds at the Land Registry.  Nowadays most property in England and Wales is registered but there are still lots of properties which have not been sold or remortgaged in the last twenty years or more which have not been registered.

Compulsory first registration or property or land is triggered when you’ve bought it, been given it, inherited it, received it in exchange for other property or land or mortgaged the property.

Please contact us if you wish to receive advice on this issue.