Es­sen­tial Guide to Being a Test­ator

A Woman in leather jacket laughing on a London street.
Catrin, UK Solicitor
21/03/2024 ● 4 minutes
This art­icle un­packs the test­ator's role in cre­at­ing a Will, de­tail­ing legal re­quire­ments, key de­cisions, chal­lenges, and prac­tical advice for ef­fect­ive estate plan­ning.

So, what is the mean­ing of a test­ator? At its core, a test­ator is someone who has taken the pro­act­ive step of de­tail­ing how they wish their assets and af­fairs to be handled after their death in a Will.

This role is not just as simple as draft­ing a doc­u­ment. By defin­i­tion, being a test­ator means that you need to make sure that your wishes are clearly ar­tic­u­lated, leg­ally valid, and ul­ti­mately re­spec­ted, and this in­volves choos­ing be­ne­fi­ciar­ies, ap­point­ing ex­ecut­ors, and out­lining your wishes for end-of-life care and fu­ner­al ar­range­ments in your Will.

The Im­port­ance of Being a Test­ator

Be­com­ing a test­ator is a power­ful step in taking con­trol of your future - well, at least the part of it that con­cerns what hap­pens to your assets after you're no longer here. It's your op­por­tun­ity to lay down clear in­struc­tions about who gets what after your death to ensure that your loved ones are provided for.

Writ­ing a Will is also a way to make sure the people close to you have a clear guide to follow that re­flects your wishes and helps pre­vent any un­cer­tainty or dis­putes that could arise, min­im­ising the stress they need to deal with during a dif­ficult time.

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To ensure your Will has the strength to stand up in court and truly re­flect your wishes, there are a few legal boxes you need to tick.

First off, you need to be of legal age (18 or older) and have a sound mind - mean­ing you un­der­stand the de­cisions you're making. Then, get­ting your Will down in writ­ing is es­sen­tial. Next up, you’ll need to sign your Will. This step is es­sen­tial to show that your Will re­flects your wishes and helps to ensure its legal valid­ity.

For your Will to be leg­ally valid you need to sign it in the pres­ence of two wit­nesses (who are 18+ and also of sound mind), who are there to vouch that you’re indeed the one sign­ing your will and do so vol­un­tar­ily. These wit­nesses can’t be a be­ne­fi­ciary or closely re­lated to a be­ne­fi­ciary (i.e. they can’t stand to gain any­thing from your Will) and they can’t be an ex­ecut­or or trustee either.

Read more: What Hap­pens if You Die without a Will?

De­cisions to Be Made by a Test­ator

As a test­ator, you're in charge of some pretty im­port­ant choices. First off, you’ll need to decide who gets what. The people get­ting things under your Will are called your be­ne­fi­ciar­ies, and they can range from family and friends to char­it­ies you care about.

Next, you'll have to pick an ex­ecut­or. This is the person who'll make sure the wishes in your Will get fol­lowed and they will dis­tribute your assets to the be­ne­fi­ciar­ies. If you have kids under 18, think­ing about who would look after them, known as guard­i­an­ship, is also a cru­cial de­cision to make.

Read more: Joint Ex­ecut­ors of a Will

Chal­lenges and Con­sid­er­a­tions

Cre­at­ing your Will isn't always straight­for­ward. Family dy­nam­ics can be tricky, es­pe­cially if re­la­tion­ships are com­plic­ated or if you're wor­ried about how your de­cisions might be re­ceived. And of course, the pos­sib­il­ity of dis­putes over your Will can't be ig­nored.

Facing these chal­lenges head-on means being thought­ful about your choices and pos­sibly set­ting up clear ex­plan­a­tions in your Will for any de­cision that might raise eye­brows. This clar­ity can help keep peace among your loved ones and ensure your wishes stand firm.

Read more about in­test­acy rules.

Get­ting Started as a Test­ator

Starting your journey as a test­ator begins with clar­ity and pre­par­a­tion. First, thor­oughly in­vent­ory what your estate in­cludes. This means listing out your assets - everything from prop­erty and in­vest­ments to sen­ti­mental items. Know­ing the scope of your estate is the es­sen­tial first step in cre­at­ing a Will that ac­cur­ately re­flects your in­ten­tions.

Next up, if your estate is of par­tic­u­larly high value, is com­plex, or your in­struc­tions in­volve set­ting up a trust, con­sult with a legal expert. A so­li­citor who spe­cial­ises in Wills can ensure your doc­u­ment is com­pre­hens­ive and leg­ally sound. They can also offer in­valu­able advice tail­ored to your unique situ­ation so that your Will can stand up to scru­tiny and truly rep­res­ents your wishes.

Fi­nally, engage in open con­ver­sa­tions with your family and close friends about your estate plan­ning. Clear com­mu­nic­a­tion about your de­cisions and in­ten­tions can pre­vent sur­prises, mis­un­der­stand­ings, and even po­ten­tial legal dis­putes!

Read more about will stor­age

Bal­an­cing Costs as a Test­ator

To keep costs man­age­able while en­sur­ing your will is leg­ally en­force­able, con­sider draft­ing it with an online plat­form like Aatos. Aatos and other online Will cre­ation plat­forms offer a cost-ef­fect­ive way to create a Will that meets legal stand­ards, with guid­ance to help you every step of the way.

Se­cur­ing Your Legacy With a Will

With the right pre­par­a­tion and open con­ver­sa­tions, be­com­ing a test­ator allows you to ensure your wishes are hon­oured and your legacy is pre­served ex­actly as you pic­ture. It's all about taking con­trol today to pro­tect and provide for your loved ones in the future.

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