Wills Explained And The Risks Of Not Having One

A Will is a legally binding way of telling people what you’d like to happen with your estate after you die.

Your estate is comprised of everything you own, including money, personal possessions, cars and property.

If you pass away without writing a Will – or last will and testament to give it its full name – the State takes charge of distributing your possessions.

This is known as dying ‘intestate’ and there’s no guarantee the settlement will follow your wishes.

Equally, if you have a Will then get married or enter into a civil partnership then in almost every case your Will becomes invalid and you’ll need to write a new one to avoid the risk of dying intestate. You can read more about this here. Our affordable Will writing service can help you avoid any complications.

Having a Will means you can choose exactly how you’d like your estate distributed by those you’ve picked to carry out this role, known as executors.

You can even use your Will to decide who looks after your pets when you’re gone!

In addition to your possessions, you can use your Will to determine other important things, such as what type of funeral you’d like and who will look after your children.

Additionally, you might want to create a trust within your Will so you can be sure your children benefit from monies that you leave behind if you pass away. This is can also be used as part of an Inheritance Tax (IHT) mitigation strategy.

Common terms associated with Wills:


This is the title given to an individual dealing with an estate if someone has died without a Will, ie intestate.


An individual or organisation, such as a charity, who has been left something in a Will and will therefore benefit.


To give cash or property in your Will.


A legacy/inheritance.


This is a document written after your main Will which changes the contents of the original document. A codicil can be used for many things, such as changing the amount of money left to an individual or removing a beneficiary.


The entire money, property and other assets of an individual who has died.


The person or persons who the individual writing the Will (the Testator) appoints to carry out the instructions within it.

Grant Of Probate 

This is the document which confirms the person or people named as executors in a Will have the legal write to deal with the testator’s estate. A copy of the grant is required by a financial institutions before they’ll release any assets.


The person or persons named by the testator to look after their children.


Cash or property which passes to a person named in a Will.

Inheritance Tax (IHT)

The money due to HMRC paid as a percentage of the value of your estate after the tax-free allowance and Residence Nil Rate Band have been taken into account.


Dying without making a Will. The estate then becomes subject to the Intestacy Rules as laid out by the State.


A specific item left to a person or organisation. A ‘pecuniary legacy’ refers to cash while a ‘specific legacy’ relates to an object or property.

Residence Nil Rate Band

An allowance allocated to a homeowner and their property which can be passed on to direct family members free from Inheritance Tax, in addition to the standard allowance.


The remainder of an individual’s estate after all debts and taxes have been paid and specific legacies distributed.


The process of nullifying a Will or codicil. The Testator must be in full control of their mental capacities when they do this. Until a new will is written, the person becomes intestate.


The person who writes and signs the Will.


A legal document contained in a will whereby property is placed into trust for the benefit of others and managed by trustees. This is often used to reduce an Inheritance Tax liability.


Despite the concerns many people have about the State taking charge of their affairs when they die, there are still millions of people in the UK who haven’t written a Will.

This can either be due to a lack of confidence or time, but also cost can be a factor.

But what price is there in knowing that if you and your partner both pass away your children are going to be safe with the guardians you’ve chosen?

The other issue is that if you don’t have a Will you’ll need a grant of probate before you can access the deceased’s assets. It will take a lot longer for them to be released to the family and this situation can give rise to financial difficulties.

After all, as far as bank or building society is concerned you own those assets and the fact that you’re no longer around doesn’t tell them who should own them subsequently. A Will and a Grant of Probate does.


Case Study

A lady passed away in the 1990s and her husband remarried. He wrote a Will leaving all his worldly goods to his new wife, including the money that the lady had passed to him.

She wouldn’t have wanted this to happen and would have preferred that her husband had use of the money during his lifetime and that the value then passed to their children when he died.

This could have been avoided with a very simple bit of wording in a Will.

Situations like this are likely to affect more and more people with increasing longevity and divorce rates.

As a consequence, children can often find themselves wrapped up in a messy scenario because unless you address the issue you have no control over what your surviving partner does with the money.

They could fall under the influence of somebody with a stronger character than them and leave the money to someone else completely.


Wills And Charitable Legacies

All legacies to charities are tax free, but you can also use charitable giving in your Will to mitigate you Inheritance Tax liability.

If you leave 10% or more of your estate to charity, your IHT liability drops from 40% to 36%. This can represent a significant saving.

There are also ongoing discussions about removing VAT from the cost of writing a Will that includes a legacy to charity. It is hoped this will encourage more people to leave gifts to charity when they die. You can read more about this here.

To find out more about reducing your Inheritance Tax bill, see this article that we’ve written.


Get in touch

Family Estate Planning offers a professional and affordable Will writing service. We can guide you through the process and also advise you on how to set up a trust in your Will to protect your assets. We operate across Wokingham, Berkshire, Reading, Surrey, Hampshire and across the South East.

For an informal, no obligation chat about your circumstances please email contact@familyestateplanning.co.uk or call 07984 013533.