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Who Is Involved in Dealing With Your Will?

by | Nov 24, 2022 | Lifetime Solutions

Written By Alex Huckerby

Estate Planning Consultant

When you create a Will, you may be forgiven for thinking that it’s just you and your beneficiaries involved. In fact, there are quite a few other important roles that need to be fulfilled to ensure your final wishes are carried and you intend. 

The ‘job titles’ involved within a Will are:

  • Testator
  • Executors 
  • Trustees 
  • Beneficiaries
  • Guardians 
  • Witnesses 

So, who are all these people and what tasks do they perform? Let’s breakdown their roles and responsibilities:

Testator: This is the individual who has created the Will, it is their last testament. A woman who has executed a Will is sometimes called a Testatrix. If someone passes away with a Will created the individual would be said to have died “testate” whereas someone who has died without a Will is described as “intestate”, this will mean the rules of intestacy applies (effectively, a Will that the Government creates for them), the rules can vary depending on what country they are in.

Executors: An Executor is responsible for carrying out most of the tasks associated with the deceased’s Will. An Executor can also be a Beneficiary of the Will. Realistically, the Testator will have chosen someone that they are close to and trust to divide their estate out in accordance with their Will, but also someone who is competent in completing a lot of tasks. Often the role is given to family members and not much thought is given to whether this is the correct person for the role. So, what tasks must an Executor carry out? They need to register the death, manage the deceased’s finances, arrange the funeral, distribute the estate, and apply for probate. Applying for probate can be a lengthy and difficult affair for an Executor but there are specialist probate services you can use.

Beneficiaries: These are the people who benefit (inherit) from your Will, most commonly they are your closest friends/family, but you can leave your estate to whoever you wish. You can itemise certain gifts to leave specific legacies, these are often items or sums of money to an individual or organisation, perhaps you’d like to leave your neighbour some gardening tools, a painting or watch to your child, or it could be a gift to a favourite charity. A Beneficiary should not be a witness as the gifts to them can be voided, however a Beneficiary can be an Executor of the Will. 

Trustees: A trustee is responsible for managing a trust, usually on behalf of the Trusts beneficiaries, although in some circumstances a trustee can also be a beneficiary. Trust’s can be created to limit the amount of Inheritance Tax that must be paid on the estate, sometimes the Beneficiaries are vulnerable and need help managing a large sum of money, or they are considered too young and for it to be held within a Trust for the time being. They usually work within criteria set out in the Trust specifications within the Trust agreement. For example, if the Beneficiary was known to be quite reckless with money, perhaps the trustee could refuse, slow down or shorten the amounts of money given. This responsibility can naturally last for years depending on how large the estate may be. There are lots of different kinds of Trusts and for your own individual circumstances to set one up you should always speak to a specialist.

Guardians: If you have a Will and have a child under the age of 18 in England, (16 in Scotland), you should appoint a person to have the legal responsibility to look after your children. This is usually only if the other parent has also deceased or is incapable of looking after the child. If Guardians are failed to be appointed the court won’t necessarily pick the person you think is the most logical, and that you would have preferred to take care of your children, so it is an important consideration.

Witness: This must be somebody that has “Mental Capacity”, in other words they must be of sound mind otherwise the Will could be challenged.  The Witness should not be related to the Testator and cannot be a Beneficiary from the Will, they must also be over the age of 18. 

In closing, it is worth noting that a badly written Will can be challenged in court, if for example someone who may expect to inherit is left out, they may decide to contest it. For this and other reason, our advice would be to get a professional service to deal with the preparation of your Will, if it’s the last thing you do!

For more information on estate planning click here to contact the team at Lifetime Solutions

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