Avoiding surprises when making a Will

Decisions about a Will can be challenging for many people, as the process of preparing a Will inevitably involves considering one’s own mortality.

This article was written by Mary Elliott (Partner) and Sophia Smout (Trainee Solicitor).

Decisions about a Will can be challenging for many people, as the process of preparing a Will inevitably involves considering one’s own mortality. Preparing a Will can also bring up various questions, which might result in the need to hold difficult conversations with your family and friends.

Appointing executors/trustees

As a first step, you might need to navigate conversations with family members about why you might wish them to act – or not to act – as executors and/or trustees.

It will be important to think about the capacity of your preferred representatives:

  • Will they be able to cope with the demands of being an executor/trustee?
  • Might a son or daughter feel aggrieved not to be appointed as an executor when his/her sibling has been appointed?

Appointing a professional, either instead of or alongside family members, can be a useful option, but might present the need for a conversation about costs, as the fees of a professional executor/trustee will need to be covered by your estate.

Friends with professional experience are often seen as a good choice of executor/trustee, but occasionally there can be misunderstandings about whether they are to be remunerated for acting. It is best to have a conversation so that all are clear on this.

Appointing guardians

It is important to think carefully about who is best placed to act as guardians to your minor children in a disaster situation. Sometimes the best person to act as a day-to-day caregiver may not be as well placed to deal with the financial aspects, and that will require careful thought as to how your Will is structured in terms of a suitable trust.

It is important to ask your intended guardians if they are happy to be appointed and to discuss as many as possible of the issues which may arise.

Factual questions

Preparing a Will often requires you to provide detailed information about your personal background – for example, previous marriages, children from former relationships, or your country of domicile.

While purely factual in nature, these questions can sometimes prove unexpectedly difficult: for instance, you might have to think about which country you see as ‘home’, or revisit difficult familial circumstances. Thinking through these issues, and talking about them with your loved ones if appropriate, can help to ensure that your Will achieves your objectives.

Financial matters

Drafting a Will usually requires you to consider your assets and liabilities. For many, this can induce anxiety.

Considering your financial assets may also require you to think about any inheritances that you yourself might be expecting in the future – again, this is important if it stands to significantly impact the value of your own estate, but can feel difficult to broach, or be associated with painful circumstances.

Funeral arrangements

These are amongst the first decisions which your loved ones will have to make following your death, and they can be fraught with difficulty, particularly where opinions or beliefs conflict.

Talking to your loved ones about your funeral preferences, and ensuring that these are recorded in your Will or a letter of wishes, can help to ensure that the process is made as easy as possible for them.


Deciding who should benefit from your estate, and in what ways, is probably the most important question of all.

Whilst you may have immediate priorities – for instance, a spouse or civil partner, or children – there may also be other relatives, children from previous relationships, friends or godchildren whom you would also like to benefit.

Regardless of your choices, it is important if possible to talk to those closest to you about whom you are planning to benefit and why – particularly if your chosen beneficiaries are not ‘obvious’ choices or, for example, you wish to make special provision for a beneficiary with particular needs.

It is almost always best to avoid surprises, and making sure that your beneficiaries have an understanding of what they might expect can help to reduce the risk of your choices being contested after your death.

Minor beneficiaries

If you are considering leaving some or all of your estate to minor beneficiaries (your children or grandchildren, for instance), it may be necessary to consider the age at which you would like them to receive their gift, and whether it should be controlled by a trust structure.

If appropriate, it is often worth having a conversation with your proposed minor beneficiaries, or their parents, to discover (if you do not already know) what they intend to do in the future; plans for work or further education may impact your decisions about when and how to benefit them.


You may wish to leave a legacy to a particular charity or charities. If this is the case, talking to your loved ones about your choice can be worthwhile, particularly if these charitable legacies reduce the amount left in your estate to be inherited by others. If you are in contact with a potential charitable beneficiary, it is worth considering keeping it informed as to your intentions.

Personal chattels

Personal chattels, even those of modest financial value, often hold significant sentimental value for more than one person, presenting difficulties when deciding how best to divide them up and creating a risk of conflict after your death. This risk can sometimes be mitigated by talking to both those whom you intend to benefit, and perhaps more importantly, those who might be disappointed.

Many of these conversations are undoubtedly hard to have, particularly where they might involve disappointment or confusion. There is, however, considerable value in taking the time to sit down and discuss your wishes and intentions with your loved ones during the process of preparing your Will, so that when the time comes there are, so far as possible, no surprises. The Private Client team at Hunters have 300 years of experience in advising on and assisting with these difficult conversations, and can be trusted to support you and your loved ones throughout the process of preparing your Will and beyond.

For further information or to speak to one of our experts, please complete our online enquiry form or email conversations@hunterslaw.com.

Share this: