What different types of wills are there?

Estates and families vary considerably. From single people households with little in the way of assets, to large estates made up of property, investments and business interests. It’s no surprise therefore that there is a range of different wills to suit different purposes.

Deciding which is the best for you will depend on a number of factors. A Will doesn’t just have cover how assets are to be distributed but can also include your wishes for your funeral, as well as what you’d like to happen to personal items or those things with sentimental value.

Here is a brief guide to some of the different types of will that are available in the UK.

Single Will

This is the most common and familiar type of will. It’s a simple document that outlines what any individual person wishes to happen with their estate when they die. Single wills are generally for people who are not in a relationship. They may also be used in instances where partners have different wishes. It might also be used if one spouse already has a will.

These can be particularly appropriate if you are married but have children from a previous relationship, allowing you to divide your estate between your spouse and your children. A Single Will lays out how you would like your assets to be divided and the document then signed in front of witnesses.

Mirror Wills

If a couple has the same wishes regarding the distribution of assets then Mirror Wills are usually used. These are two documents, one for each person, but the contents of each will mirror the other one.

When one spouse dies the entire estate is passed to the surviving spouse. When they have both died, the estate is then distributed according to the instructions in the will.

The contents of Mirror Wills can make requests regarding personal items, such as photographs, books, art and jewellery. Mirror Wills rely on high levels of trust between two people because it’s perfectly possible for the surviving spouse to change their will after the death of their spouse.

If you have children from another relationship then this may be problematic and there have been occasions when someone has cut out family members or a will has been changed to benefit a new spouse.

Trust Wills

Trust Wills address some of the issues that can arise with Single and Mirror Wills. There are different types of trust wills that allow for some degree of flexibility. They may also provide some protection from Inheritance Tax. There are a number of different types of trust will, each suited for different personal circumstances.

Discretionary Trust

A Discretionary Trust can be used to leave part or all of your will, to a trust that is created in the Will. In the trust, you can name the trustees who will manage the trust and who its beneficiaries will be. The trustees will have complete control over how and when any beneficiaries receive the contents of the trust.

These can be a useful means by which to ensure that young children or beneficiaries incapable of managing their finances are provided with funds. Creditors cannot access the fund which makes them a useful option for providing for anyone who is in debt or who may be bankrupt.

Property Trust

Property Trust Wills allow for someone to benefit from the property while preserving all or part of it for another beneficiary. This might be because you’d like to pass on your property to your children while ensuring that your spouse can remain in the property until you die. This can be useful if you have remarried but would ultimately like your property to pass on to your children from a previous marriage.

Flexible Life Interest Trust Wills

Flexible Life Interest Trust Wills are similar to a Property Trust Will. These protect assets while allowing a beneficiary to receive income from the trust. A surviving spouse can access funds for their ongoing needs for the rest of their life. At their death, the assets then pass to other beneficiaries. In most cases, this is the children.

This type of trust is flexible and allows for discretions about how and when funds are made available. If, for instance, a spouse needed care home fees, these funds are owed to the trust and then repaid on to beneficiaries at death.

Living Wills

A Living Will has the legal name Advance Decision which gives some indication about its role. A Living Will outlines your wishes regarding medical treatments in case you’re unable to make a decision or communicate them. They are most commonly used to reject a range of life-sustaining medical interventions such as being put on a ventilator or being given CPR. These are legally binding in England and Wales and if one exists, medical professionals are legally required to follow your wishes.

Professional Wills & Probate advice

At Mark Reynolds, our Wills & Probate Services can help you choose the right will to best suit your needs and personal circumstances.

For expert and confidential advice call 0800 002 9577 or contact us online.