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What is a last will and testament?

Your last will and testament is a legal written document that specifies where and to whom you wish your property and possessions – known as your ‘estate’ – to be distributed in the event of your death.

At least one executor must be appointed in your will, who is responsible for managing your estate to its conclusion. They must ensure the contents of your will are followed exactly. Who you choose as an executor depends on your own personal preference. Some people choose to use the solicitor who made their will, whilst others may choose a trusted friend or family member.  Ideally, you should appoint at least two executors to oversee this key aspect of estate planning.

What is the purpose of a will?

While the primary purpose of your last will and testament is to distribute any property you own in the event of your death, it may also legally specify a number of other provisions, including:

  • Ensuring your spouse or partner receives all your possessions. If this request is not clearly specified within your will, they may not automatically do so, which may lead to challenges or disputes of your will
  • Appointing a legal guardian for any children who are minors (classified as aged under 18) at the time of your death. This guardian can also be appointed to manage any inheritance your children may receive until they reach their majority
  • Appointing those you wish to manage any specific part of your estate
  • Specifying what you wish to happen to your property or possessions should your named beneficiaries die before you
  • Designating any specific bequests such as heirlooms or artwork, plus any charitable donations
  • Your specific funeral wishes, such as whether you wish to be buried or cremated and any ceremony-based requests

Why do you need a will?

It’s essential you have a valid will in place prior to your death, in order to ensure your wishes are met. Those who do not have a valid will are known to die ‘intestate’. The term also applies where a will only specifies actions for part of an estate, with the remaining provision declared ‘intestate’.

In order for your will to be legally binding, it needs to be properly witnessed and signed. While you can use a template, it’s advised you discuss your requirements with a legal professional to ensure everything is as you wish. At Kew Law we are experts in the legal process of making a will, so don’t hesitate to get in touch and we will be happy to assist you.

A concise will may also help your family avoid a lengthy probate process. The clearer your wishes, the simpler and swifter the process will be.

You can also use your will to disinherit any individual you do not wish to benefit from your death, with clear specification as to why.

Any new will and testament you make supersedes any previous versions and, once signed, revokes the contents of such.

Your last will and testament has no legal authority prior to your death.

What is a living will?

Differing to your last will and testament which is only actionable upon your death, a living will – also called an ‘advance directive’ or a ‘directive to physicians’ – allows you to specify any particular wishes you may have regarding end of life care, should you be unable to confirm your preferences. It also allows you to refuse particular medical treatment or procedures.

In order to become legally binding, a living will must be signed by the maker – yourself – and a valid witness. Some living wills also require the additional signature of a notary.

A living will can be made using a template, or through a specialist will writing solicitor.

A living will has no legal authority after your death.  

To learn more about the range of services we offer related to Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning, please consult the pages below:

Court of Protection

Inheritance & Tax Planning

Lasting Powers of Attorney

Property & Asset Protection

Trust Management


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