What Is a Will & Should You Make One?

Simply put, a will is a legal document that allows you to express your desires and intentions regarding the distribution of your property following your death. It is your will that sets out how, when and even why you want your property apportioned between your relatives, friends and charities when you die. As the author of your will, you will be known as the ‘testator’ if you are male and as the ‘testatrix’ if you are female.

There are many benefits to making a will and very few drawbacks. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that it allows you to dictate, via a clear legal document, how you want your assets distributed following your death. This is particularly important if you are married or have children as, in each case, you will no doubt want to provide appropriately for your loved ones. In the absence of having a will, the ‘rules of intestacy’ (which apply where a person dies without making a will) will determine how your assets are distributed amongst your heirs. As the definition of ‘heirs’ only includes family members, this distribution may not be in accordance with your wishes!

Another good reason for making a will is that it allows you to appoint someone as your executor. Your executor is the person or persons who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will and for tidying up your affairs after you die. If you don’t appoint an executor in your will, the rules of intestacy will determine who fulfils that role. The person appointed under these rules may not be someone that you would wish to have trawling through your affairs.

Wills also allow you to appoint guardians to take care of your minor children and to make property management arrangements to cater for young beneficiaries who will inherit under your will. They can also be used as a means to reduce the amount of inheritance tax that your beneficiaries will pay upon receiving assets from you. We’ll discuss inheritance tax in more detail in the ensuing pages.

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