Glossary of terms

Please find details of the terms used in Wills and points to consider when writing or updating a Will.

Glossary of legal terms

Preparatory steps before making your Will

1. Assess the value of your estate
Prepare a list of your assets (e.g. property, personal possessions) and your liabilities (e.g. mortgage, loans) plus anything which belongs to your jointly with another person. This will help your adviser establish whether your estate may be liable to Inheritance Tax.

2. Who would you like to benefit
Establish the names and address of family, friends, charities and other organisations who you wish to include in your Will.

3. Seek professional advice
It is advisable to consult a solicitor or other professional adviser who will give you personal, confidential guidance and advice specifically relating to your own circumstances.

4. Executors and Witnesses
An Executor ensures that your wishes are carried out in accordance with your Will and it does not matter if they are also beneficiaries of your Will. You can appoint professional advisers, such as a solicitor, although they will charge a fee. Your will should be signed in the presence of two witnesses (they cannot be beneficiaries of your Will) and your solicitor or adviser can usually make arrangements for this to be carried out.

5. Inheritance Tax
Currently, the first part of any estate is free from Inheritance Tax (IHT), although the threshold at which tax starts is liable to change. At present anything given to a legal spouse (including those joined under a registered Civil Partnership) or a registered charity is absolutely free of IHT and including these in your will may help reduce the liability to tax. If you choose to leave 10% or more of your taxable estate to charity the remaining taxable estate benefits from a reduced rate of tax (36%) rather than the standard rate (40 %).

Your solicitor or adviser will be able to suggest the most tax efficient planning methods in your own particular circumstances.

6. Keeping your Will up to date and in a safe place
It is important to keep a will up to date and periodical reviews are recommended, especially if personal or financial circumstances change. It is good practice to leave your original Will with your solicitor or your bank, with a copy at home. Tell your Executors where the Will can be found or you may like to consider giving them a copy.