What is a Will, and do I really need one?
By Steve Bish F.Inst.Pa MSWW January 4th, 2023
In simple terms a Will is a legal document which sets out the wishes of an individual - the testator.
The testator will use the Will to declare who is to benefit from his (or her) estate and, if more than one beneficiary, in what proportions.
The testator will also nominate an executor, the person who is to manage the estate and see that the terms of the will are adhered to.
A guardian (or guardians) may also be nominated to have parental responsibility for any children under the age of eighteen.
And, on the subject of age, the testator must themselves be over the age of eighteen in normal circumstances.
The first paragraph of a Will is known as the revocation clause. This consists of a few words confirming that the document is the ‘last will and testament’ of the testator and as such it revokes any and all previous Wills.
The testator may choose to give details of their funeral wishes in the Will. This could be as simple as specifying their preference between a burial or cremation or as much detail as deemed necessary.
It’s becoming very common these days for one or more legacies in a Will to be left ‘In Trust’.
Examples of Will Trusts include the following:
The minimum age at which anyone can benefit from a Will in the UK is eighteen. Therefore, if a beneficiary is below that age when the legacies are dispersed their share would be held ‘in trust’ until they reached that age. The testator, when giving instructions for their Will has the option to increase that age of attainment up to a maximum of twenty five years of age.
Right to occupy Trust
A right to occupy trust enables someone to remain living in a property even though it's being left to other beneficiaries. This could be anything from a child still living at home, or a new partner not being made homeless. The Trust can be written to protect those people for certain periods or come to an end due to events such as remarriage or cohabitation.
Disabled Discretionary Trust
A Disabled Discretionary Trust is created on death to hold the beneficiary’s inheritance. This can protect disabled or vulnerable beneficiaries. Their inheritance wouldn’t be subject to ‘means testing’. It can also prevent an inheritance being lost to the effects of divorce, bankruptcy or issues such as drug or alcohol dependency.
Protective Property Trust (PPT)
The Protective Property Trust (PPT) is without doubt the most popular Will Trust these days for property owning couples with children.
How does it work?
Most people own their house jointly, meaning that it passes to their spouse on first death and their children or beneficiaries on second death. Severing the tenancy of the property means the Mrs and Mrs instead 50% each as 'tenants in common'. The legacy is written 'in trust' so upon first death, instead of leaving the share of the property to the surviving spouse, the assets are held in trust for the ultimate beneficiaries of the will, usually their children. The surviving spouse has a 'life interest' or ‘right of occupancy' and can live for life in the property or substitute it for another one.
Care Fees Benefit - If either partner needs care in the future, they only have interest in half the home, so 50% is immediately protected.
The deceased's share cannot be used to fund care costs for the survivor. It is the most affordable way of helping to protect what for most people is their largest asset, their home.
Remarriages and ‘Sideways Disinheritance’ - Should the survivor re-marry, the deceased's share cannot pass to another family. It is protected for their chosen beneficiaries.
The final page of the Will is the attestation page where the testator confirms the Will in the presence of two witnesses. It’s important that the witnesses are not beneficiaries of the Will, family members or spouses of family members or beneficiaries.
Hopefully this short paper will have answered the first part of the question, What is a Will?
As for the second part (do I really need one?), I’m sure, after reading this, most people will agree that the answer is a resounding YES.
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