What is a Will? …and Why Do I Need One?


Image courtesy of Annika Wischnewsky an Unsplash.com

Few documents have as much significance as a Last Will and Testament. Commonly known as a will, this legal document outlines an individual’s wishes for the distribution of their assets and the care of any dependents after their passing. Despite its importance, many people in Brighton and Hove and the surrounding area overlook the necessity of having a will in place. In this outline, we look at wills in England and Wales, exploring what they involve and why everyone should consider having one.

Understanding the Basics

A Will is a legal document that allows an individual, referred to as the testator, to set out how their estate should be distributed upon their death. This includes assets such as property, money, investments, and personal belongings. Additionally, a will can specify guardianship arrangements for minor children and outline any specific funeral wishes the testator may have.

The Importance of Having a Will

  1. Asset Distribution: One of the main reasons for creating a will is to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Without a will, the laws of intestacy dictate how your estate will be divided, which may not align with your intentions. By having a will in place, you retain control over who inherits your property and possessions.
  2. Protecting Loved Ones: A will allows you to provide for your loved ones after your death. This includes ensuring that your spouse, children, or other dependents are adequately provided for financially. By specifying beneficiaries in your will, you can prevent disputes and alleviate potential financial hardships for your family members.
  3. Appointing Executors and Guardians: In addition to asset distribution, a will enables you to appoint executors who will be responsible for administering your estate and ensuring that your wishes are carried out. Furthermore, if you have minor children, a will allows you to nominate guardians who will take care of them in the event of your death.
  4. Tax Planning: A well-drafted will can also help minimize the tax implications on your estate. By incorporating tax planning strategies into your will, you can potentially reduce the amount of inheritance tax that your beneficiaries will have to pay, thereby maximizing the value of your estate for your loved ones.
  5. Peace of Mind: Perhaps the most compelling reason to have a will is the peace of mind it provides. Knowing that your affairs are in order and that your loved ones will be taken care of according to your wishes can offer a sense of security and relief.

Creating a Will in Brighton and Hove

Creating a will does not have to be complex or daunting process. Whilst you will need professional legal advice to ensure that your will is legally valid and accurately reflects your intentions, this is available locally and at reasonable cost. An initial meeting will discuss you wishes, followed by your adviser preparing the necesssary documents, and a furtherr meeting to check that you are satisfied and then put your arrangements in place.

The Legal Requirements of a Will

In England and Wales, certain legal requirements must be met for a will to be considered valid. These include:

  1. Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind and understand the nature and consequences of making a will.
  2. Intent: The testator must have the intention to create a will and understand the implications of their decisions.
  3. Formalities: The will must be in writing, signed by the testator (or another person in their presence and at their direction), and witnessed by two independent witnesses who must also sign the will in the presence of the testator.
  4. Revocation: Any previous wills or codicils should be expressly revoked to avoid confusion or conflicts regarding the testator’s intentions.
  5. Free Will: The testator must make decisions voluntarily, free from undue influence or coercion from others.

Common Provisions in a Will

While the contents of a will can vary depending on individual circumstances and preferences, there are several common provisions that may be included:

  1. Appointment of Executors and Guardians: Naming individuals who will be responsible for administering the estate and caring for any minor children.
  2. Beneficiaries: Identifying who will inherit the testator’s assets and specifying the distribution of property and possessions.
  3. Specific Gifts: Allocating specific items or sums of money to particular beneficiaries.
  4. Residuary Estate: Dealing with any remaining assets not covered by specific gifts, often distributed among the residuary beneficiaries.
  5. Funeral Wishes: Outlining any preferences regarding funeral arrangements, burial or cremation, and memorial services.

Updating Your Will

It is essential to review and update your will regularly to ensure that it continues to reflect your current wishes and circumstances. Life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, or changes in financial status may necessitate amendments to your will. Additionally, changes in tax laws or personal relationships may also warrant revisions to your estate planning documents.


In summary, a will is a vital legal document that serves to protect your assets, provide for your loved ones, and ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death. Regardless of your age, wealth, or family situation, having a will in place is essential for safeguarding your legacy and providing peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones. By taking the time to create a will and regularly reviewing it to reflect changes in your life, you can ensure that your final wishes are respected and your estate is distributed according to your intentions, offering security and reassurance for the future.

We can help you with this today