What are the different types of Wills and Will Trusts?
Most of us are aware we need a Will and that it’s best not to write your own. But what Will do you need? Putting one together is relatively straightforward, but there are different types depending on the circumstances. Deciding which one is best for you will help avoid any unintended consequences for your family and your estate after you pass. Below we explain the different types and what is required to formalise them.
The Different Types of Wills & Trust Wills
A Single Will is perhaps the most familiar and suitable for any individual person to outline their wishes. While Single Wills are generally for people who are not in a relationship or are divorced, they’re also used in circumstances when your wishes differ from your spouse or if they already have a Will.
Single Wills are especially useful if you’re married but have children from a previous relationship as you can divided your estate between your spouse and your children. But if you would like to make special provisions for loved ones, in which cause a Trust Will might be a better option (see below).
In a Single Will how your assets are divided is laid out and the document signed in front of witnesses.
A Will doesn’t just have to cover how your assets are distributed but also details such as plans for your funeral and what you would like to happen to items of personal or sentimental value.
Mirror Wills are designed for couples who have the same wishes. There are in fact two documents produced, one for each person, but each Will ‘mirrors’ the other.
In a Mirror Will the estate is distributed as follows:
- When one spouse dies the whole estate is passed to the surviving spouse
- When they die the estate is distributed according to what is laid out in the Will
In a Mirror Will, it is possible to make requests such as funeral arrangements or make personal bequests of sentimental items such as jewellery, photographs and other items.
One thing to be aware of with a Mirror Will is that there is an element of trust involved and there is no guarantee your estate will be passed on to your loved ones. The surviving spouse they are entirely within their rights to change their Will and distribute it however they wish, even cutting out children and other loved ones and leaving it all to their cat if they decide too.
This could be a problem if you have children from a previous marriage or your spouse remarries. There have been sad instances of surviving spouses cutting out step-children from wills and leaving their estate to their own children, or changing their Will to benefit their new spouse.
Another issue is that while the documents are drawn up at the same time, either partner can change their Will and there is no legal requirement to inform the other partner that this has happened.
To prevent this ring-fencing parts for beneficiaries of your estate using a Will Trust is the better option
There are different types of Trust Wills, which gives you flexibility over your property and assets and how they’re managed.
Discretionary Trust is used to leave your estate or part of it, to a trust created in your Will and only come into play once you pass. You can choose people to manage the trust (known as Trustees) and name the people who are beneficiaries of the Trust. The Trustees then have total discretion over what, how and when your beneficiaries receive the contents of the Trust.
These are useful for providing funds for minor children or beneficiaries who aren’t able to manage their own finances, such as adults with learning disabilities.
Another benefit to a Discretionary Trust is that creditors cannot access the funds in the Trusts so are useful for providing for those in debt or bankruptcy.
Property Trust Wills
A Property Trust Will protects property in your estate. This allows someone to benefit from the property held in the trust while at the same time preserving all or part of it for other beneficiaries. For example; if you would like your home to pass to your children but you want your surviving spouse to remain in the house until they die, this is useful if you have remarried but want your home to pass to children from a previous marriage.
A Flexible Life Interest Trust Will
A Life Interest Trust is similar to a Property Trust Will but protects assets, and in this case, a beneficiary can receive income from the trust. It means a surviving spouse can still have access to funds for their needs, but on their death, the assets pass to other beneficiaries such as children.
A Flexible Life Interest Trust Will is often the best type of trust for most circumstances as it has extra flexibility about how and when funds are released. Such as if your spouse needs funds to pay for care home fees, these are then owed to the trust and are repaid and passed on to beneficiaries on death.
In both cases, there is protection from Inheritance Tax laws; however income and capital gain tax still apply, so it is best to bear those in mind if trying to use a trust to reduce Inheritance Tax bills.
Another type of Will is a Living Will, legally referred to as Advance Decisions, this is a document which outlines any medical treatments you don’t want in future, are only used if you are unable to make or communicate those. These are commonly used to refuse life-sustaining treatment such as being given CPR or being put on a ventilator. Or used to outline what treatments are not to be used to treat long-term diseases such as cancer, for example, refusing surgery.
Advance Decisions are legally binding in England and Wales, and if a healthcare professional knows you have one, they have to follow it.
You don’t need an estate planning consultant to help you put together Advance Decisions, Compassion In Dying has some useful resources on how to go about putting on in place.
We hope this blog post has shed some light on the differences between the types of Wills and Will Trusts available to you. It can be a tricky task balancing the various tools at your disposal and applying them to your personal circumstances, which is why we’re here to help. Get in contact with us, and we can work out the best combination and help you put them in place.