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  • Writer's pictureBrenden OSullivan

The Essential Guide to Drafting Your Last Will and Testament in the UK

In the United Kingdom, drafting a Last Will and Testament is a crucial step in ensuring that your estate is managed and distributed according to your wishes after your passing. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the legal framework, the process of creating a will, financial considerations including inheritance tax, and the specific provisions for non-residents and expatriates with assets in Portugal. Understanding these aspects can help secure your legacy and provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

Key Takeaways

  • Creating a valid will in the UK is essential for ensuring your estate is distributed according to your wishes, and it requires understanding the legal framework and the role of executors.

  • Incorporating foreign assets, such as those in Portugal, into your UK will can be complex but is possible, and it may involve drafting additional legal documents like a Declaration of Law.

  • Financial planning is key, with considerations for minimising inheritance tax in both the UK and Portugal and understanding the fees associated with legalisation and notary services.

  • Without a will, your estate may face significant complications and costs, especially if it includes assets in different countries, highlighting the importance of estate administration and probate.

  • For non-residents and expatriates, creating a Portuguese will can offer benefits and streamline the inheritance process, but it's crucial to ensure it aligns with your UK will.

Understanding the Legal Framework for Wills in the UK

The Significance of a Valid Will

In the journey of life, few documents have the enduring impact of a last will and testament. Ensuring that your wishes are respected and your legacy preserved is paramount, and it begins with the creation of a valid will. This is your ultimate guide to crafting a last will and testament in Britain, tailored to reflect your personal circumstances and estate planning goals.

  • A valid will provides a clear directive on how your assets should be distributed.

  • It appoints guardians for minor children, if applicable.

  • It can help to minimise potential disputes among beneficiaries.

Remember, the absence of a will can lead to unintended consequences, where the law dictates the distribution of your estate, often in ways that may not align with your wishes. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the components of a valid will and the importance of personalization for your unique situation.

UK vs Portuguese Inheritance Laws

When it comes to estate planning, understanding the differences between UK and Portuguese inheritance laws is paramount, especially if your estate includes assets in both countries. The legal principles and procedures vary significantly, and without proper guidance, you could inadvertently complicate the inheritance process for your beneficiaries.

In Portugal, the inheritance laws may impose certain 'forced heirship' rules, which dictate that a portion of your estate must go to specific family members, unlike the more flexible approach in the UK. Here's a quick comparison to highlight some key differences:

  • UK: Testamentary freedom allows you to distribute your estate according to your wishes.

  • Portugal: 'Forced heirship' rules may apply, limiting your freedom to allocate your estate.

Making a will in the UK is crucial for estate planning. Review, sign, store safely, and update periodically. Seek professional advice for a legally valid and comprehensive will. If your estate spans across multiple jurisdictions, it's essential to consult with experts who are well-versed in both UK and Portuguese laws to navigate the complexities.

The Role of Executors and Administrators

When you're drafting your last will and testament, it's crucial to understand the responsibilities that come with appointing executors and administrators. These individuals will be tasked with managing your estate and ensuring that your final wishes are honoured. Executors are responsible for a range of duties, from valuing the estate to distributing assets to beneficiaries.

It's important to choose someone you trust implicitly for these roles, as they will be making significant decisions about your estate. Here's a brief guide to help you get started:

  • Determine the overall value of your estate.

  • List all assets and liabilities.

  • Choose executors and trustees who will manage your estate and honour your final wishes.

Remember, the selection of executors and administrators should not be taken lightly. They will ensure that all final estate administration is dealt with appropriately, which is why many opt for professional wills and probate solicitors to assist in this process.

The Process of Creating Your Will

Choosing Your Independent Lawyer

Selecting the right legal professional to draught your Will is a pivotal step in ensuring your wishes are honoured. Expert legal guidance is crucial for navigating the complexities of estate planning, including the appointment of guardians for your children. Here are some key considerations when choosing your independent lawyer:

  • Look for a solicitor with a strong track record in Will drafting and estate planning.

  • Ensure they have experience in dealing with the specific legal issues relevant to your situation.

  • Consider their familiarity with international aspects if you have foreign assets.

Remember, the right lawyer will not only provide you with peace of mind but also safeguard the future of your loved ones and the legacy you wish to leave behind.

Drafting and Registering Your Will

Once you've decided to take control of your posthumous affairs, drafting and registering your will is a pivotal step. Ensure your will is clear, concise, and reflects your true intentions for the distribution of your assets. Begin by recording your details as the testator and naming an executor who will oversee the execution of your will. It's crucial to add family details and specify gifts, naming beneficiaries to avoid any ambiguity.

  • Record testator details

  • Name an executor

  • Add family details

  • Specify gifts and name beneficiaries

After drafting, the next phase is registering your will. This legal formality solidifies your will's validity. Our team can assist in arranging the registration of your will at the Central Wills Registry, ensuring that your estate will be managed exactly as you intend when the time comes. The cost for drafting a simple will starts at

Finally, submit the final documentation to the Registry and register the assets in the name of the Estate. If heirs wish to distribute the assets among themselves, a Deed of sharing must be completed. Free initial advice is available; do not hesitate to reach out for guidance on these crucial steps.

Incorporating Foreign Assets: The Case of Portugal

When considering your estate, it's crucial to address how foreign assets, particularly those in Portugal, will be managed. Navigating the inheritance laws of two countries can be complex, but with careful planning, you can ensure your wishes are honoured. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Portuguese law allows foreigners to leave their property to anyone they choose, provided their own national law permits it.

  • Inheritance tax on Portuguese assets must be paid in Portugal, but can be offset against UK tax due to Double Taxation Laws.

  • The process in Portugal is notably paperwork-intensive, especially with international elements involved.

If you have property or other assets in Portugal, it's advisable to seek specialist legal advice to navigate the complexities and ensure your estate is planned to benefit your heirs optimally. Remember, incorporating foreign assets into your Will requires meticulous attention to both UK and Portuguese legal frameworks.

Financial Considerations and Inheritance Tax Planning

Minimising Inheritance Tax in the UK and Portugal

When it comes to minimising inheritance tax in both the UK and Portugal, understanding the nuances of each country's tax laws is crucial. In Portugal, inheritance tax on property or assets must be paid locally, but these must also be declared in the UK. Fortunately, Double Taxation Laws allow for the tax paid in Portugal to offset the tax payable in the UK, preventing you from being taxed twice on the same assets.

The following points offer guidance on how to manage your inheritance tax obligations effectively:

  • Seek advice on how an inheritance in Portugal impacts your UK inheritance.

  • Ensure you have a complete understanding of how UK and Portuguese inheritance laws interact.

  • Consider making a Portuguese Will to benefit from local inheritance tax planning.

  • Utilise Portuguese Powers of Attorney if necessary.

By taking these steps, you can secure your legacy and ensure that your heirs receive the maximum possible benefit from your estate.

Understanding Legalisation and Notary Fees

When drafting your will, especially with assets in both the UK and Portugal, you'll encounter various fees associated with legalisation and notarisation. Understanding these costs is crucial to effectively manage your estate planning budget.

For instance, notary fees for the signature of a Deed of Acceptance of Inheritance in Portugal are typically around [

Legalisation fees in the UK are set at ](

It's important to note that these fees can vary depending on the complexity of the documents and the notary involved. Here's a breakdown of some common fees you might encounter:

  • Notary fees for Power of Attorney:

  • Legalisation fees per document:

  • Wills registry Search in Portugal:

  • Land registry fees in Portugal:

  • NIF Application cost (if needed):

Remember, these are indicative costs and may differ based on your specific circumstances. It's advisable to consult with your lawyer for a detailed quote.

The Impact of Not Having a Will on Your Estate

Dying without a will, known as dying 'intestate', can lead to outcomes that may not align with your personal wishes. The Rules of Intestacy dictate the distribution of your estate, which can result in unintended beneficiaries and potential disputes among relatives.

  • Married or civil partners and certain close relatives are the default inheritors under these rules.

  • If you own a business, the lack of a will complicates who will take over its management and asset distribution.

  • Without a will, your estate may incur additional costs and complications, potentially increasing the tax burden on your beneficiaries.

It's crucial to understand that intestacy rules do not consider modern family structures or personal relationships. Therefore, friends, partners not legally married or in a civil partnership, and charities you might have wanted to support will receive nothing. To ensure your legacy lives on as you intend, drafting a will is a critical step.

Posthumous Wishes and Estate Administration

Specifying Your Beneficiaries and Their Inheritance

When drafting your last will and testament, it's crucial to clearly specify who your beneficiaries are and what they will inherit. This ensures that your assets are distributed according to your personal wishes, and not left to the impersonal rules of intestacy.

Here are typical steps to consider when specifying your beneficiaries:

  • Identify all potential beneficiaries, including family, friends, and charities.

  • Decide on the specific assets or portions of your estate each beneficiary will receive.

  • Consider any conditions you want to place on the inheritance, such as age restrictions or milestones.

  • Review and update your beneficiary designations regularly, especially after major life events.

Remember, the clearer your instructions, the smoother the process will be for your loved ones after you're gone.

The Importance of a Declaration of Law

When you're drafting your will, it's crucial to understand the significance of including a Declaration of Law. This declaration asserts that your personal law allows for the free disposition of property upon death. In Portugal, for instance, this declaration is key for the Central Wills Registry to accept your will.

Incorporating a Declaration of Law can simplify the inheritance process significantly. Here's why:

  • It clarifies the legal basis of your will, reducing the need for additional explanations or translations.

  • It ensures that your will is drafted in consideration of local laws, which can be particularly advantageous in Portugal.

  • It avoids potential disputes over the validity of your will, as it clearly states your intentions under the applicable legal framework.

By including such a declaration, you're not only complying with legal requirements but also safeguarding your wishes for how your assets should be distributed. It's an essential step in making a will that withstands scrutiny and fulfils your intentions.

Dealing with Estate Administration and Probate

Once the will has been validated, the administration of the estate begins. This involves collecting the deceased's assets, paying any debts, and distributing the remaining estate to the beneficiaries as outlined in the will. If you're dealing with assets in different countries, such as Portugal, the process can be more complex.

Here are the steps typically involved in the UK probate process:

  • Obtain a copy of the Death Certificate.

  • Instruct an independent lawyer to guide you through the process.

  • Secure a copy of the Will, if one exists.

  • If the Will is UK-based, acquire a Grant of Probate.

  • Decide if you wish to retain any inherited property.

  • Consider if you want to vary the inheritance distribution.

  • Consult with a currency dealer for favourable exchange rates during money transfers.

  • Have your lawyer perform checks on the property and advise on the inheritance.

  • Arrange for NIF numbers if dealing with Portuguese assets.

It's essential to have a lawyer who can navigate both UK and Portuguese legal systems, especially if the estate includes property in Portugal. This ensures that the administration is handled correctly, giving you peace of mind.

Additional Legal Provisions for Non-Residents and Expatriates

Making a Will as a Non-Resident in Portugal

When considering your estate as a non-resident in Portugal, it's crucial to understand the flexibility you have regarding your will. You are not bound by Portuguese inheritance laws and can opt to follow the laws of your home country. This means that your UK will can include your Portuguese assets, simplifying the process for your heirs.

However, creating a Portuguese will might be the easiest route for several reasons:

  • The will is recognised immediately by Portuguese authorities.

  • It avoids the need for translation and legal explanations.

  • It is drafted in consideration of Portuguese law, potentially saving your beneficiaries in tax.

Remember, UK treaties prevent double taxation, which is an important consideration when including overseas assets in your will. Participating in initiatives like Free Will Month can provide guidance on how to handle these assets. Additionally, setting up trusts may be a viable option for managing your estate.

Navigating Portuguese Powers of Attorney

When managing your affairs in Portugal, especially in relation to inheritance, a Portuguese Power of Attorney (PoA) can be an invaluable tool. It allows you to appoint a representative to act on your behalf without the need for you to be physically present. However, the scope of a Portuguese PoA is typically broader than its UK counterpart, making it crucial to define its limits precisely.

Here are some key considerations when setting up a Portuguese PoA:

  • Clearly define the extent of powers granted to your representative.

  • Choose a trusted individual or a professional entity with experience in Portuguese legal matters.

  • Regularly review and update the PoA to reflect any changes in your circumstances or Portuguese law.

Our team of experts can guide you through the process, ensuring that your PoA is set up correctly and aligns with your intentions. This will not only facilitate the management of your inheritance but also provide peace of mind that your estate is being handled as you wish.

The Benefits of a Portuguese Will for UK Citizens

As a UK citizen with assets in Portugal, you may find it advantageous to draught a separate Portuguese Will. This ensures that your Portuguese assets are managed according to your wishes, without the complexities that can arise when a single Will covers multiple jurisdictions. A Portuguese Will can be drafted and signed locally or at a legal office, negating the need to travel to Portugal.

  • A Portuguese Will simplifies the inheritance process for your assets in Portugal.

  • It can be tailored to complement your UK Will, preventing one from revoking the other.

  • Registration at the Central Wills Registry in Lisbon provides additional legal certainty.

The cost for drafting a simple Portuguese Will is typically around

currency: GBP

currency: GBP 1,100 |

Remember, it may also be necessary to draught a Declaration of Law to confirm the validity of your UK Will in Portugal and clarify the inheritance process to Portuguese authorities. This step is crucial as the inheritance systems differ significantly between the two countries.

Navigating the complexities of estate planning as a non-resident or expatriate can be daunting. At East Sussex Wills, we specialise in providing tailored services to meet your unique needs. Whether you're looking for Will Writing, Power of Attorney, or secure document storage, our team of experts is here to guide you every step of the way. Don't let distance be a barrier to securing your legacy. Visit our website to learn more about our Additional Legal Provisions for Non-Residents and Expatriates, and schedule your consultation today.


In conclusion, drafting your Last Will and Testament is a fundamental step in ensuring that your estate is managed and distributed according to your wishes upon your passing. Whether you have assets in the UK, Portugal, or elsewhere, it is crucial to understand the legal implications and requirements of each jurisdiction to avoid unnecessary complications and taxes. By seeking professional advice and considering all aspects of estate planning, including potential inheritance tax issues and the benefits of creating a Portuguese Will, you can provide peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones. Remember, the cost and effort of preparing a comprehensive Will are insignificant compared to the potential difficulties your heirs may face without one. Take the time to secure your legacy and ensure that your final wishes are honoured.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to have a valid will in the UK?

Having a valid will in the UK is crucial for ensuring that your wishes are carried out after your death, avoiding unnecessary legal complications, and providing peace of mind to your loved ones. It allows you to specify beneficiaries and the distribution of your assets, and appoint executors to manage your estate.

Can a UK will be valid for assets in Portugal?

It is possible to include assets in Portugal in a UK will. However, it's advisable to create a Portuguese will for those assets to avoid potential inheritance tax issues and reduce the complexity and cost of the inheritance process.

What are the benefits of drafting a Portuguese will for UK citizens?

Drafting a Portuguese will for UK citizens can help minimise inheritance tax, ensure compliance with local laws, and streamline the inheritance process for assets located in Portugal. It also allows non-residents to follow the inheritance laws of their home country.

How much does it cost to draught a simple will in the UK?

The cost for drafting a simple will in the UK is typically around £1,100 plus VAT. Additional fees such as Foreign and Commonwealth Office Legalisation and Notary fees may also apply.

What is the role of executors and administrators in UK wills?

Executors and administrators are responsible for managing the estate of the deceased in accordance with the will. They handle tasks such as collecting assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.

What happens if I don't have a will in the UK?

If you don't have a will in the UK, your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which may not reflect your wishes. This can lead to disputes among potential heirs and may result in a less favourable tax situation for your estate.



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