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What is a will and why do we need one?

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At our Sunderland Student Law Clinic, wills are one of the most common things we deal with. Our Law Clinic enables students to experience working with real life cases, free of charge, to those who can't afford it - a win-win situation for both! If you study our LLB (Hons) Law or our newest postgraduate course, LLM Advanced Legal Practice, you will work in the Law Clinic as part of your studies.

But what is a will and why do we need one? Raneem is one of the many students who works in our Law Clinic and has kindly taken the time to explain the importance of a will and why you should seek legal advice when creating one.

A hand holding a pen and the other hand leaning on a clipboard writing

What is a will?

A will is a legally binding, written document that states how a person wishes to distribute their assets after their passing. It's created during your lifetime and takes effect only after you've passed away. The estate is all distributed at once.

Law and wills in particular can use jargon or terminology you may not understand.

Key words to note

Intestate when a person passes without a will. In this case, the assets are distributed following the intestacy rules in law. It will normally go in this order; spouse, children, parents, full siblings, half siblings, aunts and uncles.

Testate is when a person passes and leaves behind a valid will.

•    The person who the will belongs to is called the testator 
•    The person who carries out the will is called the executor 
•    The person/s who are named recipients in the will are called the beneficiaries.

Why should you make a will?

Making a will is important as it can:

•    Allow you to take control of your property
•    Minimise the amount of any inheritance tax that might be payable
•    Ensure that those who are financially dependent on you are protected adding provisions.

What are the requirements of a valid will?

In order for a will to be valid, it must fulfil the following requirements:

•    The person making the will must be over the age of 18
•    The person making the will must have the mental capacity to do so. They need to understand the concept of the will and know they're doing
•    The will must be made in writing
•    The will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who then also sign it in your presence (there are requirements about who these people can be). 

Why should you seek legal advice?

Making a will is not as straightforward as you may think. There are lots of requirements and rules that your will must comply with to make sure that it's valid and legally binding. Making yourself a homemade will can be appealing due to its low cost. Though, it's important to note that unless you have a good knowledge of current law, the likelihood of making a legally valid will is reduced. The wording of each clause in a will must be phrased correctly otherwise the meaning is changed, making it difficult to create it yourself. If the meaning is changed there will be issues with how the assets are divided and by that point, it will be too late to change anything. 

What are the benefits of making a will?

There are many benefits of making a will including: 

•    Preventing intestacy laws from stepping in 
•    Ensuring the care of minors or seniors
•    Revealing all of your assets 
•    Providing clear instructions for handling liabilities 
•    Allowing you to donate to charity 
•    Reducing chances of family disputes.

Our Law Clinic is directly linked to our courses LLB (Hons) Law and LLM Advanced Legal Practice.

Our Student Advisors can help provide further advice about your rights and preparation of wills. If you need further information, then please fill out the form on our Law Clinic page or call us on 0191 5152550. 


Published: 2 May 2024