Basic Single Will
This is a will written for a single person and needs to tick all the right legal boxes for their circumstances but generally is fairly simplistic.
Imagine an 18 year old in the Armed Forces about to be deployed over to Afghanistan, they know they have to have a will in place, they probably haven’t got many assets to their name, perhaps a car, a current account, even a savings account and a load of computer equipment and games.
They have a Mum, Dad and Sister, Mum & Dad do ok for themselves already so they think I’d like to give my computer games to my best friend and everything else to my Sister. I trust my mother & father to make sure that this happens.
A Basic Single Will can do just that but in legal terms, it will nominate his mother and father as his Executors. They are instructed to pay all his outstanding debts and funeral expenses then include a gift of Computer Games to his best friend and then instruct the Executors to give everything else that he owns, his Residuary Estate, to his Sister. Simple.
As his life progresses, a few years down the line, he’s 22 now, he has a girlfriend, the feeling is new to him but he thinks that he loves her and wants to include her in his will, because he’s been away with the Army and his best friend gone to University they’ve drifted apart to a large degree. He also has a small amount of savings by now.
He re-writes his will, his parents are still his Executors, but this time, there’s no gift to his best friend but his Residuary Estate is now to be split equally between his sister and his girlfriend.
A Basic Single Will is still fine for this latest scenario, without any issues or complications, his wishes are still perfectly represented and can be legally enacted in the event of his death.
The complication arises when he and his girlfriend decide to move in together. Then they need Basic Joint Wills.
Basic Joint or Mirror Wills
This is a pair of Wills written together to show the mutual wishes of a couple living together, whether as partners or as a married couple. Even if their wishes differ slightly the wills can still be written as Basic Joint Wills.
Our 22 year old is now 24 and he and his girlfriend have decided to move in with each other, they rent a flat, they each have their own car, their own bank accounts and a Joint Account with their savings in that they are going to use to pay for a holiday when they get around to it. His girlfriend has no brothers or sisters and only her father on her side.
They now sit down to write Basic Joint Wills, this time they discuss who should do what job and decide that, if one of them dies then the other should be the first Executor but they’ll nominate 2 other Executors to act together as substitutes in the event of them both dying. The substitutes that they nominate are his father and her father, they don’t know each other well, they’ve met once when they first moved in to their flat together but they know that they’ll each do a good job in the event of them having to work together as Executors to their deceased child’s will.
In his will he gifts his car to his Sister but everything else, his Residuary Estate, he gives to his girlfriend. If she dies with him or before him then his Residuary Estate will be split between his sister and his girlfriend’s father. This last bit is called his “Disaster Clause”.
In his girlfriend’s will she gifts her car to her best friend, her Jewellery to her close female cousin and everything else to her boyfriend. If he dies before her or at the same time then she gifts her residuary Estate to be split equally between her boyfriend’s sister and her own father, just that same as her boyfriend’s disaster clause.
These Basic Joint Wills cover them and their loved ones fine until the couple decide to get married, they don’t want to be panicking the day of their wedding to get new wills signed (as they know that the act of marriage revokes any existing wills) so they do the sensible thing and write new wills “in anticipation of marriage” so that the wills are still valid for when they go off on their honeymoon after the wedding.
These new wills written “in anticipation of marriage” are identical to the previous wills that they had written but have a new clause in stating that they are not to be revoked by the act of marriage.
The happy couple are now married and are 26 years old, along comes their first child and amongst all the other chaotic elements that this event brings is another re-write of their wills to include Guardians for their child and a trust to benefit their child until it reaches the age of 18 and until then can help pay for the child’s up-bringing. They add the Guardianship clause to their wills and with first level of residue going to each other, then second level of residue going to their child (in a Children’s Trust until the child reaches 18) they also, very wisely, opt to keep the third level of residue, their disaster clause, which names his sister and her father. They have to do this again adding the name of their second child who now shares the second level of residue with child number one.
All of the complexity of the family cycle described above can easily be accounted for in a pair of Basic Joint Wills. The complication arises when they buy a house, then they need to think about owning their house Tenants in Common and including in their wills some form of Trusts.