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A woman showing client where to sign the will

Different types of wills

It’s relatively straightforward and cheap to get your Will sorted, but it’s important to know that there are several different types available. Choosing the best one for you requires a bit of knowledge on the differences. Luckily, we’ve put together this handy guide so you can learn more, and make the best decision for you and your loved ones.

Everyone’s circumstances are different, so it’s important to know which Will is best suited to you. Having the wrong type of Will could have repercussions on your family and your estate once you die, so it’s important to have things in order, especially if you have children or a partner.

Standard Wills

Single Will

Unlike the name suggests, you do not have to be ‘single’ to make a Single Will. It is instead a way for an individual to decide on their own circumstances and record this as such. Single Wills are good if you have wishes different to a partner, they already have a Will in place, or if you would just prefer to have a separate Will to outline your belongings. A Single Will includes the usual purposes of a Will, such as noting gifts or appointing an executor, and a beneficiary (or beneficiaries) to your estate will still exist once all debts are settled.

However, there are some circumstances where a Single Will might not be the best option; such as if you are married but have children from a previous relationship, or if you have vulnerable loved ones and you wish to put provisions in place for them. In circumstances such as these it may be best to get a Trust Will (below).

Mirror Will

Mirror Wills do, as the name suggests, mirror each other. These are two separate Wills, which are identical, or at least largely so, in what they contain and upon what they instruct. These are designed for couples who have similar wishes, and are often beneficiaries of each other’s Wills should the other die first. They also contain what should happen if unforeseen circumstances arise. You can also include individual requests in a Mirror Will, such as if you have differing funeral wishes.

You do not have to be married to create a Mirror Will, they are often a more cost effective way to create a Will in a partnership. However, it is worth bearing in mind that whilst you may create a Mirror Will, either party can change their Will individually without the other knowing.

Trust Wills

There are a number of ‘Trust Wills’, which are named as such because they are based on a degree of trust. A Trust is designated to a trustee, who is then obligated to deal with assets of your estate for the beneficiaries. However, each Trust Will does different things. They may be required to provide extra protection of your possessions and properties so your loved ones are covered. For instance if you have a significant sum of savings, or own a property, or have vulnerable people who you wish to ensure the care of, a Trust Will can help you with this, as it allows you to protect the value of your assets, property and investments for the future.

Trust Wills are generally created for a number of reasons, including effective Inheritance Tax planning. They also make estate administration less complicated after death, and can help to prevent disputes arising from Wills and Probate. In addition, Trusts also allow you to protect the future of your intended beneficiaries, either by providing their education, or protecting them from losing assets (e.g. in divorce/bankruptcy) or from inheriting too early.

Discretionary Trust Will

A Discretionary Trust Will gives the Trustee the discretion to devise who benefits from the estate, and how and when they will benefit. You can use a Discretionary Trust Will for all or part of your Will. Your choice of Trustee will manage the Trust for you once you have died, however you are able to name potential beneficiaries of the Will and who you would like to be included. This type of Trust gives more responsibility to the Trustee, and allows them to choose who will need the assets the most. As a result, this Trustee needs to be someone who you trust entirely to follow your wishes, or who you believe will make the best decision for the beneficiaries.

Property Trust Will

Property under your name or a shared name can be protected by a Property Trust Will. This allows you to prevent the value of your share of the property from decreasing, as it ensures the property, or at least your share of it, is proper looked after. Trustees of your choice manage the Trust, but you can give the right to someone (usually your partner or spouse) to benefit from the Trust during their lifetime. This usually means the benefit of being able to reside in the property after your death if the Trust contains property. If the property has been sold and the Trust contains cash, the beneficiary may receive income generated from the Trust. The other beneficiaries, e.g. children, usually receive their distribution once your spouse/partner has died.

A Property Trust Will is especially useful for older couples, as it may help the surviving individual (should one pass away) not only continue to live in the house, but also to avoid care home costs. This is because the spouse would only be evaluated for care home costs based on their share of the property, and not the share within the Trust, as that is protected from care home costs.

Life Interest Trust Will

Similar to a Property Trust Will is a Life Interest Trust Will, but rather than just putting your property (or your share of it) in Trust, it allows you to put the whole or part of your estate in too.

Flexible Trust Wills

This is an extension of the Life Interest Trust Will but it gives you more flexibility if you have a more complicated home life (such as having remarried but you have children from a previous marriage that you also wish to benefit). As such, it is often called ‘the ideal modern Will Trust’ because more modern families tend to be more diverse. They can also be used if you wish to release some parts of your estate immediately upon death, but at the same time safeguard the rest for future beneficiaries. For example, allowing your current wife to remain in the house but leaving it to the children once she has passed away.

Living Wills

Slightly different to a usual Will, whereby people receive your assets and wishes upon your death, is a Living Will. This is for those who fear they may not be of sound mind in the future, such as those living with deteriorating illnesses of the mind (e.g. Alzheimer’s). It is advisable that you therefore make a Living Will while you are of sound mind, so you can detail your wishes for future care. This may include resuscitation wishes, or whether you would wish for blood transfusions or amputations. Medics are required to follow the wishes of the Living Will when you require treatment.


Note: First4Lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances and not rely on First4Lawyers’ online information alone.
All details correct at time of last update. First4Lawyers and their partners are not tax advisors and we recommend you seek appropriate independent financial advice before making any decisions that relate to tax and property.

Last updated:  November 2017