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How to explain the basics of will writing to confused potential customers

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As a lawyer, explaining all the legal terms related to will writing in plain English so that clients can understand them, can be tricky when most people don’t have any legal training or know-how.

In this article, we explain the basic terms related to will writing in a way that even those completely new to the subject will be able to understand.

Definition of a Will

Basically, your will is a legal document that lists all of the assets you own and states your wishes on how they should be distributed after your death.
What’s included in a Will?
Usually, all the things that a person owns are written into a will. These things are known as assets.

Assets may include any land or property that you own (even land or property that you still have a mortgage on), any savings, bonds, cash, shares or investments you have, and any possessions such as jewellery, cars, pieces of furniture, books or art works, and basically anything you own that you may want to pass on to someone after your death.

The items you list do not necessarily have to have large material worth. They can just be items that have sentimental value to you and will be appreciated by someone else after you have gone. Your will can state who these assets are to go to and any other instructions about how they are to be passed on that you wish. A will is a legal document which is to be implemented as stated.

How to write a will
There are many different possibilities when it comes to how you can write a will.

Will writing templates are available in the form of DIY kits which can be purchased online. Similarly, the option of filling out the will online directly through a website is also possible. If you are confident enough to fill out the details and are sure you have understood the terminologies and guidelines which mean your will will be a legally valid document, then this is a perfectly legal way to make a will. These two options are cheaper than hiring the services of a solicitor, but solicitors are the experts and are able to give you advice and guidance on all aspects of writing a will. Solicitors can be particularly useful if you have complicated family circumstances or a large estate as these factors can bring added difficulties when making a will. You have to evaluate all the pros and cons before deciding on the best option for you.
Basic terms to keep in mind for writing a will
There are different terms used in will writing that relate to the people or actions to be performed; some of the main ones are as follows.

Guardian
If you have children who haven’t reached legal age, then it is essential to appoint a guardian for them. In cases where a parent has failed to do so at the time of their death, minor children left behind become the responsibility of the court, who can decide which persons should take them. It is therefore critical to make your wishes clear on this most important of matters.

Beneficiaries
These are the people who benefit from someone’s will. If you have written a will and listed all your assets, the next step is to distribute all of them among your family members or whoever you consider to be fit for a reward. Some people include charities and friends in the will as well as relatives but mostly possessions are passed onto immediate family.

Executor
An executor is the person who has the responsibility of assuring everything stated in your will is implemented as per your wishes. The most common practice in this case, is to appoint someone who already is a beneficiary so that they have an interest in the correct implementation of the will. Some people also select private lawyers however to avoid any unpleasant situations or disputes between family members.

Things not included in a will
Some specific items or assets cannot be included in a will depending on the terms and conditions attached to them. Items such as;

Joint assets
Joint accounts or properties that are in the name of someone else cannot be included in the will. Such assets are usually passed on to the person who is the other party in the contract.

Life insurance policy
Individual insurance policies are also not part of the will, but you can nominate your estate as a beneficiary so that the money is transferred per your requirement.

Superannuation
Your superannuation cannot automatically be included in the will; you can discuss the process on how to start the procedure, but usually, it is in the hands of your policy provider trustee.

Hopefully, this will help with the explanation of these complex legal terms to people who want a general idea about will writing before hiring legal services.

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