A will is a binding testamentary document that allows a testator to appoint executors to administer their estate and dispose of it to the beneficiaries chosen by the testator.
Or in other words:
Your will is the formal document that sets out what is to happen to your property and possessions when you die. It is a legal document that is binding on your executors – which means that they don’t have any choice whether or not to follow it.
There are plenty of reasons to make a will. In fact, it’s almost better to ask, ‘Why wouldn’t you have a will?’ See more in the other pages of Do I need a will?
A will only takes effect on the death of the person who made it and can be revoked at any time before then.
If you don't have a valid will you are said to be intestate. This means that neither you nor anyone else – except the law – has control over what happens to your property after your death. This is not an ideal situation, for many reasons. See more on our page about Avoiding intestacy.
Of course, there’s a little more to it than that!
A will is usually divided into clauses, and they generally fall into a normal pattern:
It can be a very short document, or a very long one. The more complicated your estate, and the more people you want to benefit from it, the longer your will is likely to be.
One of the things that puts people off legal documents generally is that they are filled with jargon and heavy language. Sadly that’s true, and in some respects it is unavoidable.
Your will is one of the most important legal documents you’ll ever come across. There are many words and phrases which need to be included in order to have full legal effect, and so that when it comes to interpreting them later on, there is no room for doubt what is intended by them.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to learn all the language in order to arrange your affairs. Using a straightforward system such as ours enables you to think about things in your own way, and leave us to turn it into the proper legal form.
We also know that many people do want to know more about the meanings of legal terms. So we have a handy glossary of all the legal terms and phrases that we use on our site or that are likely to appear in your will.