BWL Client Guide – Do I need a Will?

BWL Client Guide – Do I need a Will?


by Kayleigh James


In short, the answer is yes.

There are many benefits to making a Will but a lot of people can be put off by the terminology, the following are words/terms that are often used in Wills:


EstateAll of your property, cash and possessions less funeral expenses and any debts or liabilities you have.
ExecutorsThese are the people who you have chosen to administer your estate, they will collect all of the information required to finalise your estate, for example they will write to your banks, building societies etc. to obtain the balance held at the date of death and will determine what assets are owned by you at the date of your death.  In some circumstances they will need to use this information to apply for a grant of probate, this will depend on the total value of your estate.  The executors will also pay any inheritance tax or other debts before distributing your estate to the beneficiaries named in your Will.

We advise that you choose at least two executors who are agreeable to act and who you trust implicitly.

BeneficiaryThis is the person or persons you will name in your Will as the people you wish to benefit. They can be given cash sums (legacies) or specific items (bequests) from your estate.
Residuary estate/residueThis is what is left over after, funeral expenses, debts, tax, legacies, bequests and the expense of administering your estate etc. have been paid,.It is usually the largest part of your estate.
Intestate/intestacyIf you do not have a valid Will in place on your death, you will die intestate and your estate will be divided in accordance with the rules of intestacy which may not be what you would have wanted.

What are the benefits of making a Will?

What are the benefits of making a Will?

  • Having your own Will gives you control and ensures that your estate is divided and controlled in accordance with your wishes which will not necessarily be the same as the rules of intestacy.
  • Appointing executors whom you trust is imperative, and helps to ensure that your estate is administered in accordance with your Will. It is sensible to choose executors who are capable of dealing with correspondence and finances, as this is likely to make the process of administering your estate a lot easier and faster.
  • Appointing guardians to take care of your young children gives you peace of mind that they will be cared for by people you trust, should you pass away before they reach the age of 18.
  • You can also deal with other important matters in your Will, such as your funeral wishes.
  • You can make gifts to charities or organisations that are important to you, and of course any friends or family whom you wish to benefit.
  • Unfortunately, if a person dies intestate (without a Will) it can sometimes lead to disputes over who should inherit. Putting a Will in place is wise as it often reduces the risk of any disputes arising over your estate.

I am separated from my children’s father but we are still married, should I make a Will?

Yes.  Under the rules of intestacy your husband will automatically inherit either all, or a significant part of your estate and you should, therefore, update your Will as soon as possible.  You should also consider appointing a guardian for the children.  If your husband has parental responsibility for the children then as the surviving parent, he will continue to have responsibility.  If your husband no longer has contact with the children or there is a court order in place but he wishes the children to reside with him after your death, it may be that court proceedings become necessary if there is a dispute between the children’s father and the guardians you have appointed in your Will.  In this situation, a letter of wishes explaining the background would be helpful to accompany your Will.

I would like my step children to benefit when I die, should I make a Will?

Yes.  Under the rules of intestacy stepchildren or foster children do not benefit, it is therefore important that you include them in your Will if you wish for them to inherit.

My partner and I are not married but we live together as common law husband and wife, do we need to make a Will?

Yes, it is a very common misconception that couples who live together have the same right as married couples, this is not the case and your partner will not automatically inherit your estate unless you specifically name them as a beneficiary in your Will.

I would like to make a Will, what do I do next?

This is often a three stage process which starts with taking your instructions at a meeting or telephone consultation, we will also provide you with our Will Pack, which provides you with important information  about Wills and a questionnaire which asks you to provide us with information concerning your family, your assets and liabilities and other information so that we can ensure your Will is drafted in accordance with your circumstances.  We then begin drafting your Will and once you are happy with it, you will sign it in the presence of two independent witnesses.  We would estimate that the process will usually take between 3 – 4 weeks to complete.

How specific does my Will need to be?

The main areas you need to cover in your Will are to name your executors, guardians and beneficiaries.  If you are considering leaving specific items, such as jewellery or paintings to individuals in your Will, and you anticipate that your wishes as to who should receive these items may change over time, you could make reference to a letter of wishes in your Will so that you can update the individuals to receive the items, or the items to be gifted without necessarily changing your Will.   A letter of wishes can also be beneficial if you anticipate anyone raising questions in respect of your wishes once you have died, the letter can be used to explain why you have made the decisions you have, for example if you have argued with a certain family member and have therefore chosen not to include them as a beneficiary in your Will.

Can I change my Will after I have signed it?

Yes, we can make amendments to your Will, although the new Will, or codicil (a legal document which is used for minor changes to your Will) will need to be signed in accordance with the requirements of the Wills Act 1837.  It is a good idea to review your Will at least every three to five years as circumstances and relationships can often change, as can the legislation in this area.  For example, if you get married, the marriage would usually automatically revoke any existing Will you may have, so you should review your position as soon as possible.  A divorce will also trigger reviewing your Will as this is a change in circumstances and your wishes are likely to have changed.