Wills


Sensitive advice protecting the legacy you leave your loved ones
Wills

THE LEADING WILLS SOLICITORS IN ESSEX

Associated Services


Whether you’re planning for your future or involved in someone else’s, we’ll find the right resolution for you. View our complete range of Wills services below.

Challenging Intestacy & Inheritance

Do you believe that you have been wrongly left out of a will, have not inherited as a result of intestacy, or the financial provision within the will does not adequately support you? Then we are ready to help you make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.

Contesting a Will

If you believe a loved one's will was wrongfully influenced, or simply feel that what you were provided isn't fair to you or your family, we are here to fight for your interests with empathetic, specialist advice at a distressing, frustrating time.

Inheritance Tax

To safeguard the inheritance you intend for your family, our solicitors offer support in preserving your financial assets and provide extensive advice on managing Inheritance Tax obligations.

Removal of Executors, Administrators or Trustees

If you feel that an Executor, Administrator or Trustee is not acting in a manner that benefit's the deceased's estate, we can work with you to challenge their position, remove them from their role, and put your loved one's legacy in hands you can trust.

Will Trust Drafting

Including a trust in your will requires careful advice to ensure it achieves what you want it to do – protect the funds that will one day benefit your loved ones, whilst ensuring that the control is appropriate for their needs. We give you holistic advice, taking into account your special circumstances and any tax ramifications.

Will Writing

By writing a will, you can ensure that all of your wishes are taken care of after you’ve passed. From making sure your assets are correctly divided up between friends and relatives, to establishing your final resting place, our comprehensive will writing service helps ensure your wishes are carried out.

Experts in Wills


Whether you're planning for your future or involved in someone else's, our dedicated solicitors can resolve all legal issues around you or a loved one's will.

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Managing Partner
Photo of Pippa Bavington, Partner at Giles Wilson
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Why do I need a will

Why do I need a will?


Writing a will allows you to ensure that your assets are distributed and that your affairs are managed according to your wishes. As the person writing the will (the ‘testator’) you get to name people (the ‘beneficiaries’) that you would like to receive a share of your estate and also name ‘executors’, the individual or individuals that will administer your estate through the probate process. If you have any children under 18, you may also make guardianship arrangements.

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What happens if there's no will?

If you pass away without having made a will, you will be viewed to have died ‘intestate’. In this situation, the first £250,000 of your estate will pass to your spouse or civil partner if you have one, with the remaining assets, if there are any, divided among your offspring, even if they are still small children. If you have no civil partner or spouse your assets go to your offspring.

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At what age should I have a will?

Unless you are on active military service, the minimum age that you can make a will is 18. Beyond that, you can legally make a will at any age. Despite this, it’s something that many people put off, maybe because they feel that they are too young to have to worry about making a will, or possibly because it’s not the nicest thing to have to consider at any age.

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What do I need to know when making a will

What do I need to know when making a will?


Firstly, have a good idea of what you’d like your will to achieve. Distribution of your worldly goods is likely to be high on the agenda, so listing out significant possessions such as property, vehicles and high-value items is a good place to start, along with any financial and digital assets you hold.

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Do I need a solicitor to make a will?

No. But if we rephrase that question to something more like, “do you need a solicitor to write and securely store a legally-valid will that is robust enough to withstand legal challenges?” – then the answer is most certainly YES.

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What happens to a will if the solicitor closes?

Solicitors are guided by the Law Society, who have very strict measures in place regarding the preservation of documents should a firm cease to practice. The Solicitors Regulation Authority will seize and secure any documents from the incumbent firm if measures haven’t been taken for them to be transferred to a suitable location, though typically arrangements will be made for the documents to be moved to the vault of an active firm. For example, Giles Wilson has held the records for Francis, Thatcher & Co since that firm’s closure.

How much does it cost to make a will?

As a “non-reserved activity”, will-writing can be undertaken by any provider at any price. The unregulated nature of this aspect of our industry means that there’s nothing to stop unqualified will-writers offering a cut-price service.

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What is Probate?

Probate is the legal right to represent a deceased person in respect of dealing with that person’s estate. The term ‘probate process’ tends also to refer to the process by which the executor identifies the testator’s assets, communicates with beneficiaries, processes inheritance tax payments, closes the deceased’s bank accounts, liquidates the deceased’s assets, prepares accounts, documents all transactions and transfers assets to beneficiaries.

What are the requirements for a will to be valid?

The legal requirements for a will to be valid are as follows:

  • The person making the will must be aged 18 or over (though there are exceptions for those on active duty in the armed forces)
  • The will must be undertaken voluntarily and without undue influence from anyone else
  • The person making the will must have the capacity to understand the document they are signing and be fully aware of the assets and people mentioned
  • The will must be a physical document, made in writing
  • The will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses
  • The will must be signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the testator and other witnesses to affirm that they have witnessed the testator’s signature
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Who can witness a will?

For a will to be valid, it has to exist in writing and be signed by the testator (the person making the will) in the presence of two or more witnesses. So what are the requirements and restrictions around who can witness a will?

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Can a beneficiary witness a will?

Strictly speaking, there’s no law against this, but a beneficiary (or his or her spouse) would make a poor choice because, though their signature would not invalidate the will, it does invalidate any gift in the will to themselves as beneficiary. So a beneficiary can sign as a witness, and the will remains valid, but any gift to them in the will would fail.

Can an executor witness a will?

Your chosen executor can be a witness to your will, but it’s not a good idea because, should the will be challenged, it could be argued in court that they are not a disinterested party, given that they stand to gain from the will.

Can I specifically ensure that one or more of my children do not inherit? Could they challenge the will after my death?

There is no reason why you can’t stipulate that any specific person be excluded as a beneficiary to your estate. However, should that person be a child of yours who is dependent on you for their financial wellbeing, or is in financial straits, they may choose to make a claim on your estate. There is a chance under these circumstances that the court will look favourably on them and go against your wishes.

How do I appoint executors

How do I appoint executors?


Executors are the people you appoint to administer your affairs after you pass away. It’s a very responsible set of tasks and should not be bestowed lightly. Duties involve dealing with your estate, overseeing the payment of inheritance taxes, recording costs and transactions, communicating with beneficiaries and distributing your assets among them.

How many executors can I appoint?

You can appoint up to 4 executors. In fact, it’s a good idea to appoint multiple executors so that you can be reasonably assured that there’ll be someone still living and on hand to handle your estate. Only one of your named executors needs to carry out their appointed duties when it comes to administering your estate if the others choose not to (or are not able to) become involved. Alternatively, multiple executors can choose to act together.

Does my executor have to be someone I know personally? Can I appoint a professional instead?

Anyone over the age of 18 can be named as the executor of your will, and many people choose to name family members or friends. However, there are no restrictions placed on who you name. Clearly, it makes no sense to name a complete stranger, but there is much to be said for choosing a professional such as a wills solicitor or accountant who will have experience with the process of probate.

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Can friends or family charge for their work as executors?

There is no legal entitlement for executors to receive payment for their services, though they can claim back any expenses they incur directly as a result of carrying out their duties. The work involved as an executor can prove lengthy and arduous, involving administrative duties encompassing areas of law, finance and taxation. If you wish to avoid burdening friends or family with this responsibility, engaging a trusted professional can be a sound investment.

Do you need a solicitor to execute a will?

Can a solicitor be an executor of a will? Yes, they certainly can, but as ever when engaging a professional, their services are billable. Do you need your executor to be a solicitor? No - in fact it is common for testators to appoint family members or friends. Using a solicitor does have its benefits though. For example, if you appoint your acquaintances as executors and they fail to outlive you, responsibility may pass straight to the Public Trustee.

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Can I make my own will

Can I make my own will?


Some DIY projects are easier to get right than others. When we come to judge the results, sometimes they exceed expectations, sometimes they’re a downright disaster, but most of the time, there’s that nagging suspicion that a professional could have done a better job.

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What are the pitfalls of a DIY will?

Increasingly, we find that we are dealing with cases in connection with a challenge made to a will. A will can be defended as being the true last will and testament of the deceased if there is evidence to prove that the deceased (known as the Testator) was of sound mind, free from undue influence, and had no obligation to financially support the claimant after their death.

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What happens if a DIY will is contested or invalid?

If a will is found to be invalid, the likely outcome is that the law will default to the position where the deceased died without having made a will at all. This could be precisely the opposite of what the person who made that homemade will really wanted.

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Where should I store my will

Where should I store my will?


When you write a will, it can often be years – even decades – before it needs to be accessed, and if for any reason the original will cannot be found, it is sometimes presumed to have been destroyed. When this happens, it can be costly and time-consuming for loved ones to try to rectify the situation, causing them unnecessary stress. And of course, your wishes may not be carried out as you would have intended. Therefore, keeping your will in a safe place and informing your executor of its whereabouts is critical.

Where shouldn't I store my will?

It can be tempting to keep your will in the safety deposit box of your bank. What could be more secure, than that? However, this may not be a good idea, as some banks don’t allow access to the box until the executor of the will is granted probate, and this can’t be granted without the will. You can’t get the will out of the box without already having the will out of the box – Catch-22! So, it’s important to ensure that the will is in a secure environment that does NOT require probate to be accessed.

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A safe place for wills at Giles Wilson

It’s widely regarded that the best option is to leave your will with a solicitor. When you choose to leave your will with Giles Wilson, all of your details and data will be locked away as they would be in a high street bank, but they are accessible by our solicitors should you choose to make changes or when your executor requires probate (the right to begin carrying out the administration, taxation and distribution of your estate in accordance with your will). When you instruct one of our professionals at Giles Wilson to write your will, we will store it at our ideally equipped HQ on London Road in Leigh-on-Sea.

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Ive made a will what next

I’ve made a will – what next?


Having a will written and stored professionally is the best first step you can make when arranging your affairs, but you may find that further steps are necessary to ensure that your will remains aligned with your wishes as circumstances change over time, and that it can be located and actioned in a timely manner when the time comes.

When do I need to update my will?

Time can bring many changes with regards to your circumstances, the circumstances of your beneficiaries, your sentiments regarding the distribution of assets or your wishes surrounding your funeral arrangements. If changes do occur, it’s time to update your will accordingly. That way, you enable your will to remain relevant, appropriate and in line with your current wishes. If you contact your solicitor, he or she will be able to take you through the process of dissolving your existing will and replacing it, or adding a codicil to your existing will.

Will my current will become invalid if I get divorced?

Your will does not become invalid when you get divorced, but any provision that you’ve made for your former spouse will cease to apply. So, if you wish for your ex to remain as one of your beneficiaries, you would need to amend your will accordingly.

What happens to my will if I leave something to someone and they die before I do?

If a beneficiary dies before the testator, that inheritance is said to have ‘lapsed’. The assets intended for that beneficiary then become part of the ‘residue’ of the estate, and if no provision is made for that residue, the assets pass to the crown in accordance with intestacy procedure.

If, as testator, you become aware of the death of one of your beneficiaries, obviously it makes sense to amend your will in order to redistribute the assets that you intended to leave to them.

Does a will need to be registered?

There is a National Will Register for England and Wales that is endorsed by the Law Society, but it is not a legal requirement for a will to be entered onto this register for it to be considered valid. The register offers a degree of security and makes it easier for the will to be located via a search of the registry. There is a charge for registering and for conducting searches, though, so you may consider it unnecessary – especially if your will has been drawn up and stored with a solicitor’s firm.

How do I ensure someone elses will is carried out

How do I ensure someone else's will is carried out?


When someone you know passes away, you may need to find out certain information about any arrangements they may have made. Did they make a will? Where is it stored? Can I read the will myself? Can I challenge the will? Here is some useful advice if you find yourself facing these sensitive questions.

How do I find out if someone has left a will?

Once a Grant of Probate has been issued, the will becomes a public document. Gov.uk offers an online search for the will or probate of any person in the UK who died in or after 1996. With the name and year of death of the deceased, you can search for any records and, if you find the individual in question, the results will show the probate number and what documentation is held. For a fee of £10, you can access the documentation within 10 working days. Giles Wilson’s specialist solicitors can offer guidance through the process of obtaining the will and interpreting its contents.

How do I find the will of a deceased person?

If someone you know has passed away without sharing the whereabouts of their will, a search of their home and possessions is a sensible place to start, as most wills are kept at home.

If the will isn’t there, then try to identify the deceased’s solicitor and enquire with them, as the will may well be stored in their vault. Beyond this you can try the District Probate Registry or Gov.uk, as mentioned above, to discover if the will is a public document.

Can I get a copy of a will?

Only the testator may grant you permission to procure a copy, but after the testator has passed away, responsibility passes to their executors. However, once the executors have acquired a Grant of Probate, the will becomes a public record and can be obtained within 10 working days from Gov.uk for an admin fee of £10.

Are beneficiaries entitled to a copy of the will?

It is up to the testator, and after their death the executors, as to whether you may access the will. However once the testator is deceased, the executor is obliged to inform the beneficiary of the death, the fact that they themselves have been appointed executor, and details of the inheritance due to the beneficiary. Once the will has become a public document, of course, beneficiaries have the same rights as anyone else to access it.

Can I contest a will?

There are circumstances where a will can be disputed. For more information, please see our page about contesting a will.

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Awards & Recognitions


The expertise of our solicitors is regularly recognised by some of the profession’s most distinguished organisations. As well as being a member of a number of Law Society schemes, we have won awards at the Law Society Excellence Awards, the Halsbury Legal Awards and the Modern Law Awards.

We have also received recognition in the form of the Lexcel mark of quality, a Legal 500 listing and a place on the shortlist of The Lawyer’s Boutique Firm of the Year.

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