What are the different types of Wills and Will Trusts?

Setting up a Will is relatively straightforward, however, deciding on the Will that suits you best will depend on your circumstances.  In this quick guide we have tried to answer some of the frequently asked questions looking at the differences between the different types of Wills available to you.

Standard Single Will

A standard single Will is a document for one person outlining how you want your possessions to be distributed after your death. It is a ‘standard’ Will because it does not contain any trusts or complex provisions. In a standard Will you can:

  • Appoint an Executor – a person who will deal with and distribute your estate on your death;
  • give specific items to your friends or family;
  • decide how you want the rest of your possessions divided between your family, friends or charities;
  • appoint a guardian for any minor children;
  • make burial or cremation declarations.

Can a single person make a Will?

Yes, a standard single Will is suitable for an individual and can be made by anyone over the age of 18.

Standard Mirror Will

A standard mirror Will, also known as joint Wills, are two separate documents (one for each person), and are an identical mirror image of each other except the name of the person and maybe individual funeral wishes. In all other terms the Wills are identical. Typically, these types of Wills are prepared by couples.

An example of this type of Will is a couple with children who leave everything to each other and on the survivor’s death leaves everything to their children in equal shares.

The benefit of this type of Will is that it is more cost effective than two standard single Wills.  If any of the provisions differ in one of the Wills, it is not a mirror Will and two standard single Wills are required.  Even if you and your partner make mirror Wills, you are each free to change your Will at any time independently to the other partner, including after the death of the first.

What’s the difference between a single Will and mirror Wills?

A single Will is one Will made by one person.  Mirror Wills are two identical Wills made by two people.  Mirror Wills are usually made by couples.


What is a codicil? Codicils are short documents making very minor change to an existing Will without changing the whole Will.

How many codicils can you add to a Will?

There are no limits on the number of codicils attached to a Will but beware, the more you add the more confusing it could be.  In most cases it might be better to rewrite the Will and we would recommend you contact your Solicitor who will be able to advise.

What is a codicil attached to a Will for? 

A codicil changes a specific part of a will, for example the executors, without changing the rest of the will.  Codicils are only suitable for very simple changes.

What is the difference between a codicil and a Will?

A codicil is a simple document making a minor change to an existing Will.  You cannot have a Codicil unless you already have Will in place.

Can I write my own Codicil to my Will?

Yes, you can, however, there is a lot of scope for errors, for example you could end up cancelling a part of the Will that you had not intended to do so.  It is recommended that you seek legal advice before doing anything.

Life Interest Trust /Discretionary Trust/Other Trust Wills

These types of Wills are more complex and contain trusts. A trust is a legal structure which can offer increased protection for your beneficiaries. You may choose to include a trust in your Will in the following circumstances:

  • To protect children from a previous marriage
  • To protect children in case of future remarriage
  • To protect assets from care fees
  • To protect assets for a disabled or vulnerable child
  • To protect assets for the benefit of multiple generations
  • To protect assets against the divorce or bankruptcy of children

When making a Will with trusts you need to appoint trustees – people who will look after the trust money for the duration of the trust.

What are the advantages of a Will trust? 

A life interest trust (also known as a Property Protection Trust) Will allows you to protect your share of the house for your beneficiaries whilst allowing a partner or another person to have use of the property during their lifetime. Please see our Life Interest Trust factsheet for further details.

A discretionary trust Will allows you to put some or all of your assets into a trust for the trustees to manage for the benefit of your beneficiaries.  For example, you can place your estate into a discretionary trust and stipulate that the money in the trust is to be used for the benefit of a vulnerable/disabled child, mentally incapable beneficiary or to be given to a beneficiary when a specific event happens.

A discretionary trust Will is also very useful if you are not certain how you want your estate to be distributed or where there are a number of variables.  This is because you can write a letter of wishes to your trustees explaining how and when you want your estate to be released to beneficiaries. Such variables cannot be incorporated in any other type of Will.

Another common trust included in Wills is when you want to leave money to someone at a certain age.  The money is controlled by your trustees until the beneficiary reaches the age you specify, such as 21 or 25.  The advantage is that the beneficiary can have access to the money for things like school fees, university fees, training courses, a car or a holiday, but it is controlled by your trustees.  The beneficiary then receives the rest of their money at the specified age.

Other bespoke Will trusts are available and we can advise you further as necessary.

How does a will trust work?

After your executors have finished administering your estate, they will transfer trust assets to your trustees to look after.  Usually your executors and trustees are the same people.  The role of your trustees is to take financial advice, invest the money, deal with trust income tax, prepare trust accounts and pay funds to beneficiaries when they become entitled to it.  You can either state in your Will when your beneficiaries become entitled (for example at a certain age or upon the death of your partner) or you can leave these decisions to your trustees (for example if your beneficiary is vulnerable to financial abuse by others).

What are the disadvantages of a Will trust?

Putting a trust in a Will makes the Will more complicated, and therefore more expensive, than a standard Will.  Your trustees will also incur costs after you die if they ask a solicitor or accountant to help them manage the trust.

What is the difference between a Will and a Will trust?

Your Will tells your executors who to give your assets to.  The people who receive your assets are called beneficiaries.  If you don’t want your beneficiaries to inherit straightaway when you die, you can put a trust in your Will. This is called a Will trust.  You cannot have a Will trust unless you make a Will.

Why put a trust in a Will?

A trust is a way of controlling money or other assets after you die. You choose people you trust (called trustees) to look after your assets and make sure your instructions are followed.  Trusts are useful if you don’t want your beneficiaries to inherit straightaway when you die (for example if you want beneficiaries to inherit at a certain age or on the death of your partner). Trusts are also useful if you need your money to be controlled for a longer period, for example if a beneficiary:

  • Is disabled
  • Has difficulties managing their own money
  • Has an addiction
  • Is vulnerable to financial abuse by others
  • Is bankrupt
  • Is likely to get divorced
  • Is in receipt of means tested benefits

Is a self Will legal?

Yes, a Will you make yourself is legal if it satisfies certain requirements, particularly in relation to the way it is signed and witnessed.  Unless your circumstances are very simple, for example you are appointing one executor and leaving everything to one person, it is advisable to talk to a professional.  If there are any problems with your Will, this can cause additional distress for your family.


How we can help

If you are looking to make a Will and would like to speak with one of our legal experts please contact Dagmara Kulczykowska in the Private Client Services team on 01908 689341 or email dkulczykowska@geoffreyleaver.com.


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Dagmara Kulczykowska

Dagmara Kulczykowska | Partner

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