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Last Will and Testament

Last revision Last revision 20/03/2024
Formats FormatsWord and PDF
Size Size3 to 5 pages
4.5 - 124 votes
Fill out the template

Last revisionLast revision: 20/03/2024

FormatsAvailable formats: Word and PDF

SizeSize: 3 to 5 pages

Option: Help from a lawyer

Rating: 4.5 - 124 votes

Fill out the template

What is a last will and testament?

A last will and testament is a document that sets out the wishes of the person who is making it, regarding the distribution of their worldwide property and assets in the event of a person's death. It is up to the testator to decide when they want to make their will, as it can be made at any time while they are alive. The testator can always draw up a new will if they choose to make major changes.

The major benefit of having a will is that the testator has control over what happens to their estate after they die. The testator can appoint who will execute the will for them and also decide who they wish to gift assets from their estate to after they die. If a person dies without a will, the court will have to decide who is entitled to the inheritance to the inheritance using laws of intestacy (i.e. laws that take effect when someone dies without a will).

Is it mandatory to have a last will and testament?

No, it is not mandatory to have a last will and testament, however, it is advisable to have one to ensure smooth division of the testator's assets after their death.

Who is a testator?

A testator is the person who is making the will and instructing how their assets should be distributed after they have died.

What does beneficiary mean?

A beneficiary is the term for a person who will be receiving benefits or assets from the estate of the testator (i.e. the person making the will) under the will. A beneficiary can include family (e.g. spouse, children, parents, half-siblings, etc), friends or charities that the testator wishes to support.

What does testamentary capacity mean?

Testamentary Capacity refers to the legal and mental ability of a person to make a valid will. A person's testamentary capacity includes their ability to:

  • understand the nature of making a will and the effects of making one,
  • understand the extent of the property they are disposing;
  • comprehend and appreciate the claims they intend to give effect to; and
  • have no disorder that affects the mind, which has the effect of perverting their sense of right or preventing them from exercising their natural faculties in disposing of the properties in their will.

What does executor mean?

An executor is a person who has been appointed by the testator to manage and distribute the testator's estate in the way that has been set out in the will. A testator can appoint more than one person to act as the executor of their will. An executor of a will can be anyone the testator wishes to appoint, including a current spouse, a child, or their solicitor.

A person who is less than 18 years old cannot be appointed executor. Similarly, an executor should have mental capacity (i.e. they should not have mental difficulties that prevent them from fulfilling the duties required) and they should not be someone who is bankrupt. Additionally, an executor cannot be a former spouse of unmarried civil partner if the marriage or civil partnership ended before the will was written.

What must a last will and testament contain?

A will must contain the following:

  • a declaration stating that the document is a will;
  • the details of the testator (i.e. their full name and address);
  • the appointment of a person who will manage the estate (i.e. executors);
  • names of the beneficiaries and what they will receive;
  • a detailed explanation of how the assets will be distributed;
  • signature of the testator; and
  • signature of at least two witnesses.

Who can create a last will and testament?

A last will and testament can be created by any person who is at least 18 years of age and a resident of England and Wales.

When does a last will and testament take effect?

A will takes effect when the testator dies. This means that the will should be read as soon as possible after the death of the testator.

What has to be done once a last will and testament is ready?

A fully completed will and testament must be printed and signed by the testator. The testator should put their initials on the bottom right hand corner of each page of the will. The signed and witnessed will must be kept in a safe place and the appointed executor(s) should have knowledge of how to access it or copies could be given to the appointed executor(s). A will not take effect if it has not been signed and witnessed properly.

Is it necessary to notarise a last will and testament?

While it is not mandatory to notarise a will, it could be useful to do so in order to certify its validity. This is due to the nature and importance of wills.

Is it necessary to have witnesses for a last will and testament?

It is required for a last will and testament to have at least two witnesses who sign the document at the same time and in each other's presence. The witnesses must not be beneficiaries under the will. The witness must be someone who is not related to the testator and has no personal interest in the will. Such a person can be a neighbour or friend. A testator's spouse or civil partner cannot act as witness to their will.

Applicable law

Wills Act 1963

The Standard Provisions and all of the Special Provisions of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (2nd Edition) (STEP)

Children Act 1989

Trustee Act 1925

Inheritance and Trustees' Power Act 2014

Inheritance Tax Act 1984

Administration of Estates Act 1925

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