How to write a legal Will – the signing process

The Testator, Beneficiary, Executor, and Witness: The major roles involved in writing a legal Will.

There are several key terms that describe people in relation to your legal Will. During the estate planning process, keep these terms in mind.

  • Testator: The person creating or leaving a Last Will and Testament.
  • Beneficiary: A person who receives a gift as per the Last Will and Testament. This can be a person, a charity, or any other organisation.
  • Executor: A person selected by the testator who carries out the Last Will and Testament. Executors will distribute assets, deal with creditors, make tax payments, and perform other services on behalf of the estate. The executor can also be a beneficiary.
    • Executors are usually compensated for their services. In most jurisdictions, 5% of the aggregate value of the estate is generally the maximum payment, and executors are commonly awarded 2.5-3.5%.
    • The Executor can be a friend or family member, or you can employ the services of a professional; usually a lawyer or department within a bank. Lawyers and solicitors have been known however to charge not only a percentage of the estate, but also an hourly fee which has led to some criticism.
  • Witness: A competent person who has reached age of majority that is present with the testator for the signing and dating of the legal Will. Witnesses have to to be disinterested parties; in other words, they can not be a beneficiary, and witnessing a Will can cause a beneficiary to forfeit their gift (disinheritance), or even challenge the validity of the entire Will. In some jurisdictions the spouse of a beneficiary is also disqualified from being a witness. So at ExpatLegalWills.com we generally recommend that the person has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the Will, just to be on the safe side.

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How to write a Will – the service at ExpatLegalWills.com

How to write a Will

Most people know that they need a Will, but with 65% of adults in Canada, the UK and the US without a Will, there is clearly a barrier to getting it done. In most cases there is a misconception that in order to prepare a Will, you must have an estate planning lawyer or solicitor involved.

For Expats this presents a unique challenge, especially if assets are held in more that one country. You need a Will for each country in which you are holding assets, and you would need to find a qualified legal professional in each country to deal with your estate planning needs.

You may have heard about using do-it-yourself Will kits, or online Will services, but again, with assets held in different countries, you are rightly skeptical that an off the shelf Will kit would be able to cope with the complexities of your estate.

But travelling to each country to meet with a lawyer or solicitor to draw up the legal documents is simply not practical, especially if there are other family members involved. This makes the estate planning bill escalate into the thousands of pounds or dollars. Continue reading

Writing a Will when you live outside of the UK

I am retired in Thailand, lived all over the place so I have assets in numerous countries and I wish to update my Will. On talking with a local lawyer he told me he can establish a will in Thailand to cover my assets here but I will need to do separate ones for other countries.

As a UK citizen, resident here in Thailand, I want to make a Will which will be effective both here and there. Any ideas about how to go about it? Does it require two separate documents to cover assets in both places?

UK Last Will and Testament

When we look through various expat forums this is one of the most common questions asked. You can see variations on the question here and here. “If I’m living overseas, but have assets in my home country, how do I prepare my UK Last Will and Testament”.

What follows in the forums Continue reading

Can I write my own Last Will and Testament?

This is one of our most frequently asked questions, but it can mean one of two things;

A. Can I sit down with a blank piece of paper and write my own Last Will and Testament?
B. Can I prepare my own legal Will without using a legal professional.

Let us first explore question A.

Can I write my own Last Will and Testament?

The answer is “yes….but don’t”. The basic requirements of a Will are simple;

  • The document must be clearly identified as a Will, and that it is expressing your wishes.
  • Ideally it should revoke (or cancel) previous Wills
  • You must demonstrate that you have the capacity to make a Will
  • You must sign it in the presence of two witnesses (unless the document is entirely handwritten in which case witnesses are usually not required). The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries, but can be any adults with mental capacity. No legal training is required in order to be a witness to the signing of the Will.
  • The Will should describe the distribution of assets to beneficiaries

If all of these requirements are met, Continue reading