A will is a legal declaration by which a person, names one or more persons to manage their estate and provides for the distribution of his property at death. There are two ways in which a person’s estate on death can be distributed;
1. Will (Testate)
2. Intestate (No will)
It is important for you to make a will because if you do not, and die without a will, the law on intestacy decides what happens to your property. A will can ensure that proper arrangements are made for your dependants and that your property is distributed in the way you wish after you die. If you make a will, you are called a testator (male) or testatrix (female). If you die testate, then all your possessions will be distributed in the way you set out in your will. An executor can be a beneficiary under the will. In other words, the executor can also inherit under the will. When your estate is distributed, the legal rights of your spouse or civil partner and children, if any, will be fulfilled first after any debts are paid before any other gifts are considered.
The requirements of a valid will
- The will must be in writing
- You must be over 18 or have been or be married
- You must be of sound mind
- You must sign or mark the will or acknowledge the signature or mark in the presence of two witnesses.
- Your two witnesses must sign the will in your presence
- Your two witnesses cannot be people who will gain from your will and they must be present with you at the same time for their attestation to be valid. The witnesses' spouses/civil partners also cannot gain from your will.
- Your witnesses must see you sign the will but they do not have to see what is written in it.
- The signature or mark must be at the end of the will.
If you are unable to sign your will due to ill-health or illiteracy, it is acceptable for you to sign your will by means of a mark. If you are physically disabled to the extent that you are unable to sign or mark your will, it is possible for you to direct an agent or representative to sign your will for you. Your agent must sign the will in your presence and on your direction and your two witnesses must be present.
A will shall be revoked automatically in certain situations:
- If you marry or enter into a civil partnership, your will shall be revoked, unless your will was made in contemplation of that marriage or civil partnership.
- If you make another will, the first will you made shall be revoked.
- If you draw up a written document that is executed in accordance with the requirements for a will, your first will shall be revoked.
- If you burn, tear or destroy your will, it will no longer be considered valid. Or, if you have someone else destroy it, your will shall be revoked, provided this was done in your presence, with your consent, and with the intention of revoking your will
2. Intestate (No will)
If you die without a will you are said to have died 'intestate'. If you die intestate, this means your estate, is distributed in accordance with the law by an administrator. The rules for division of property on intestacy are as follows:
- spouse/civil partner but no children - spouse/civil partner gets entire estate;
- spouse/civil partner and children - spouse/civil partner gets two-thirds, one-third is divided equally between children (if a child has already died his/her children take a share);
- parents, no spouse/civil partner or children - divided equally or entirely to one parent if only one survives;
- children, no spouse/civil partner - divided equally between children (as above);
- brothers and sisters only - shared equally, the children of a deceased brother or sister take the share;
- nieces and nephews only - divided equally between those surviving;
- other relatives - divided equally between nearest equal relationship;
- no relatives - the state.