Writing a will is essential for anyone who owns assets of significance, but it can be a challenging task without the help of an experienced fiduciary. Nevertheless, this post is dedicated towards making the task of writing one’s own will a lot easier by listing everything that they should include in their document of inheritance. Read on to find out all there is to know about writing your will as the testator.And, if you're wondering why you should write a will in the first place, then check out my post to learn the importance of writing a will.
The publication is the primary segment in any will and it is often headlined as “The Last Will and Testament of the Testator (full name).” It is a declaration where the testator:
- Identifies themselves and then proceeds to verify their identity, independence, and sentiency as the creator of their own will
- Nullifies all previously existing wills, testaments and/or other legal documents of inheritance created (if applicable) to specify the inheritance of assets included in the present will
- Appoints the will’s executor, who will be administering the assets, acting as the deceased’s representative
- Appoints guardians and trustees, as applicable
- Mentions all beneficiaries
- Specifies all instructions the executor must follow while administering the estate
After writing down all sections that are to be included in the will, the testator will have to sign the document with date. This action must be witnessed and verified by two or more neutral individuals. All official witnesses of the will’s signing must not be beneficiaries of the same will in any way. This is a legal condition since any beneficiary playing the role of witness would create a clear conflict of interest.
After witnessing the testator sign his will without any form of direct or indirect coercion, the witnesses will have to sign the document as well. The witnesses’ signatures would serve to confirm their neutral observation of the will’s voluntary signing by the testator. More than two witnesses might be present during the process, but only two signatures are necessary. It should be noted that web cam wills do not require the two witnesses to be present in the same room as the testator. Through a webcam, the two witnesses need only to have a clear and unobstructed view of the will’s signing by the testator in real time.
Should you contact a lawyer?
We have now gone through a general idea regarding the important information that should be included in a will, but there is still the actual structure to consider. This is when things get complicated, and it is highly advisable to seek assistance from legal professionals for ensuring your will’s validity under British inheritance laws.
If you are not willing or able to meet a lawyer in person, opt for a webcam will instead. For example, E.L.M Legal Services will let you write a will from the comfort of your own home. Feel free to directly chat or talk on the phone with them to know more about how webcam wills work. E.L.M Legal Services do not charge for general enquiries, and you will not be obligated to hire them post those enquiries either.
Structure of a will: A general outline
As mentioned previously, this is where things get a bit diversified, and testators require personalised, professional guidance. Nevertheless, you should at least have a general idea of how the average will and testament is structured as a document. Take a quick look through the outlines next to get a better understanding of how wills should be structured in the UK.
This is the initial section of the publication where you will be establishing and verifying your identity as the will’s testator. It will also include in written form that you made this will as an aware individual, based on your own volition and without external influences.
If previous wills, codicils, or any other documents of inheritance exist which specify the inheritance rights of the same assets designated in the present will, a section for their revocation must be included. This is where the testator will be revoking all pre-existing documents of inheritance pertaining to the assets mentioned in the present will. This is important to avoid confusions and conflicts with past documents that don’t hold relevance under the present circumstances.
As wills are read out and enacted after the testator’s passing, you must make provisions in your will to specify the following appointments.
The executor of a will is an appointed person whom you will be leaving in charge of reading the will, following its instructions, and ensuring that your last instructions are carried out in an exact manner. They will be put in charge of making arrangements for administering your estate and its assets, as per your will.
The executor is often someone that the testator considers to be a highly competent and trusted individual of personal acquaintance. In case such a person is not found, experienced and well-acquainted attorneys might instead be hired to act as the executor of the will. There is no law barring a beneficiary from being named as the executor of your will.
If there are minors mentioned as beneficiaries in the will, then you will also need to appoint guardians for them in this portion. There are two guardian roles which can be assigned to the same individual or two different people, depending on your own discretion:
- Guardian of the Person is responsible for making decisions on behalf of the minor beneficiary/beneficiaries, as well as their physical and emotional wellbeing.
- Guadian of the Estate manages and protects the minor’s inherited assets until the time they reach adulthood.
However, appointing a guardian may not be necessary under some circumstances, provided that the beneficiary has at least one capable parent. At the same time, appointing secondary guardian(s) is also advisable for worse case scenarios. This requires making arrangements for a trusted figure to assume the guardian’s duty, in case the primary guardian passes away before the beneficiary becomes an adult.
If you create a trust for the beneficiaries of your will, then a trustee would be your appointed manager, protector and distributor of the assets owned and/or generated by that trust. In most cases, the Guardian of the Estate and the Trustee are the same person. However, they can just as well be two different individuals, depending on your own wishes, as specified in the will itself.
Beneficiaries are parties who will be benefiting from the will. In other words, they are the inheritors of assets specified within the testator’s last will and testament. Unless it is simply a document to revoke previous documents of inheritance, at least one beneficiary must be mentioned, identified, and verified beyond all doubt in written text.
If and when applicable, the section should also include all conditions of inheritance as well. For example, a parent may specify that their surviving offspring may not inherit their assets before a certain age and/or before completing certain academic qualifications. When there are multiple beneficiaries and varying conditions of inheritance, they must all be separately specified.
Testimonium & attestation
This is the last part of the signage section previously discussed. The testator confirms their awareness, identity, freedom of decision, etc. by signing and dating the will. The same is confirmed as such by the two witnesses by putting down their own signs and details, as further evidence of the will’s authenticity. In case of webcam wills, digital witness signatures are accepted in England and Wales.
You may also include details about how the funeral and burial are to be carried out. For those not yet sure about whether they wish to be organ donors, consult this section for more information. All aware and capable citizens above 18 are now considered organ donors by default in the UK. Also, keep in mind that if you leave any property unmentioned in your will, it could automatically become the government’s property by law.