A will is a legal document that describes how a person wants their assets to be distributed after their death. For large or complicated estates, a will also helps to minimise the amount of inheritance tax that will have to be paid on the estate after a person’s death.

When a person drafts a will they dictate what they want to have happen to their assets after they die. Assets can include personal possessions, property, investments, and cash. Some people die without leaving a will; when this happens their assets automatically pass to their surviving spouse or civil partner, if they have one. If they have no surviving spouse, their possessions and assets pass to their next-of-kin or closest direct descendant or descendants.

Drafting and Registering a Will

To draft a will a person must be over 18 and of sound mind. It’s possible to write your own will, but it can be useful to hire a solicitor for this purpose, to ensure the will is properly constructed and can’t be challenged after your death. Once the will is written it’s signed by the owner of the will, as well as two independent witnesses. A will should be stored in a place that’s safe and secure; for instance it can be lodged with a bank or solicitor. Wills can also be lodged with the London Probate Department.

Once a will has been drafted and signed it's legally binding; however in some cases a will can be contested and overturned. For instance, a will can be contested if there is evidence that the deceased was unduly influenced by another person when the will was made, or if there is evidence that they were not of sound mind when they made the will.

Wills and Probate

Probate is the process a will goes through after a person dies. During probate, the deceased person’s assets are collected and inventoried. Inheritance tax is paid on the estate, and then the remainder of the assets are distributed to the people named in the will as beneficiaries.

These processes are typically carried out by the executor of a will. The executor is a person chosen by the deceased and named in the will to ensure the deceased’s wishes are carried out after their death.