Types of Wills – Which Type of Will Do You Need?

Types of Will

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted many aspects of our lives, none more so than the need for making a will. However, the latest research from Canada Life shows that 59% of UK adults have not written a will – that’s 31 million people whose estate could end up in the hands of someone not of their choosing.

But when it comes to writing your will, it can be hard to know which type of will you need as there are four different types of will in the UK – single, joint (mirror), living and trust wills. So let’s take a closer look at the different types of will, what they should include and which one is right for you.

Do I need a will?

First, let’s answer a common question. In a nutshell, yes, you do need a will if you want to decide who gets what from your estate on your death.  But that’s not the only reason; a will can also be used to ensure that should you not be able to take care of yourself and make your own decisions at some point in life, your affairs and wishes are taken care of during your lifetime.

A last will and testament is one of the most important documents in your estate planning and it is up to you who benefits from your estate, and who manages the distribution of your estate when you die.

Types of Will

Different types of will have different purposes; wills are drawn up to not only cover how your assets are distributed upon your death but can also include your funeral plans, the beneficiaries for any special items or sentimental or personal value – such as family heirlooms – and some wills also cater for your healthcare wishes if you are incapacitated and are unable to make your own decisions. Which will is suitable for your needs depends on your circumstances.

  • Single (simple) will – probably the most well-known, common will that is used by an individual that details their wishes upon their death. It can be used by anyone that is single, divorced or in a relationship where their wishes are different to that of their partner/spouse. This type of will is also used by people that have children from a previous relationship and wish to divide their estate between children/spouses from both relationships. However, in these circumstances, you may find that a trust will is more appropriate.
  • Joint (mirror) wills – this type of will is for couples, whether it is your spouse, your civil partner or the person with whom you have a long-term relationship, that have the same wishes upon their death, hence the term ‘mirror’. Whilst two wills are drawn up by your solicitor (or yourself), the wills are almost identical. There are several things to be aware of if you decide to have a joint will:
    • Upon the death of one spouse, the entire deceased’s estate passes to the surviving spouse.
    • Upon the death of the surviving spouse, the estate is distributed in accordance with the joint wishes specified in the will. This could create a problem should the surviving spouse remarry or commit to another long-term relationship as any step-children will be omitted, or there are children from a previous marriage.
    • There has to be an element of trust between spouses/civil partners as there is no guarantee an estate will be passed on to the people you wish.
    • Because the two documents of the will are drawn up at the same time, either party is entitled to change their will at any time and they legally do not have to advise the other party of the change. Therefore, you may find that a trust will is a better option.
  • Trust wills – there are several different types of trust wills, depending on your needs, and they provide greater flexibility over who benefits from your estate, which can be broken down into property and assets. A trust will can also detail how the estate is managed upon your death if the beneficiaries are below a certain age, and your wishes in terms of your healthcare and welfare[1] .
    • Discretionary trust wills – this type of will puts a proportion of, or the entire estate into a trust that is managed by your appointed trustees upon your death. A discretionary trust will name the beneficiaries of the trust, which may be receiving an income from the trust until the beneficiary reaches a certain age or to look after a beneficiary’s health and welfare, such as a child or adult with a disability. The trustees must manage and administer the trust according to your wishes, although they do have some discretion. In addition, it can protect beneficiaries from paying too much tax and from creditors should a beneficiary be in severe debt.
    • Property trust wills – this type of trust will work in a similar way to a discretionary trust will but holds your property (or properties) in a trust from which a beneficiary can receive an income. For example, a surviving spouse would receive an income from the property trust and also be able to continue to live in the property but on their death, the assets pass to other beneficiaries as stated in the trust will.
    • Flexible Life Interest trust will – again, this is similar to the other types of trust will but provides greater flexibility in providing an income from the assets protected in the trust. Therefore, should you have a spouse that needs ongoing care or there are care home fees to pay, the trustees have greater control on how and when the trust funds are released. Whilst these types of trust do protect from Inheritance Tax, both Capital Gains Tax and Income tax will still apply.
  • Living will – lastly is the Living will which is also known as Advance Decisions because this type of will details any care and medical treatment you may require in the future, should you be in a position where you can’t make those decisions for yourself. This can include life-support, being put on a ventilator or CPR as well as treatment for long-term illnesses, such as Parkinson’s or cancer.

All wills must be signed by the testator (the person making the will) in front of at least two witnesses, who will also sign the document as confirmation they have seen the testator signing the will. 

As well as the above types of will, which are the most common, there are also two other types – holographic wills are handwritten wills and oral wills, which are also called ‘nuncupative’ wills.

At Probates Online, we are able to offer a professional probate service online that is efficient and affordable.  If you are an Executor of a will and need to apply for Grant of Probate, Letters of Administration or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.