The ultimate guide to roles within a Will

When it comes to writing a Will you may have heard of Beneficiaries, Guardians, Executors; but do you know who they are? Or what they do? We’ve written a helpful guide to roles within a Will and how they all work together.

man witnessing Will


The Testator is referring to the person who is making the Will. You may sometimes see this as Testatrix if it is a woman who has made the Will. However, Testator is now generally used as a gender-neutral term.


The role of an Executor is to manage the administration of an estate once the Testator has passed away. The appointed Executor will most likely have to apply for legal authority to manage the estate. This is called a Grant of Probate.

You can appoint an individual, multiple individuals or a company as Executor to your estate as long as they are over 18 and of sound mind. In a Mirror Will the spouse is usually Executor on first death if they are the sole beneficiary, then further Executors are appointed on second death.

The administration of an Estate can be a long and complicated process. The amount of work involved varies depending on the size and circumstances of the estate. However, an Executor could be expected to pay outstanding debts, sell properties, track down beneficiaries and carrying out all instructions of the Will.

Executors can also be appointed as Beneficiary and Guardian within a Will. Executors can witness the Will, but if that is the case then they cannot be a Beneficiary.

You can find a more in-depth guide to the role of an Executor here.


A Beneficiary is a person or organisation that is set to benefit or receive a gift in a Will. You can appoint as many beneficiaries as you wish and can gift them anything from your estate no matter how big or small.

Again, with a Mirror Will it is usual that the spouse inherits everything in the estate. After this instance any other named beneficiaries will inherit on second death.

A beneficiary can also act as an Executor or Guardian, the only rule being that they cannot witness the Will.


A Guardian is the person(s) that you are appointing to have parental responsibility for your children if they are orphaned before reaching 18 years of age. You do not need to name the father as a Guardian if their name is on your child’s birth certificate as they will automatically have parental responsibility.

You can appoint anyone over the age of 18 as a Guardian, with those usually chosen being grandparents, aunts and uncles, or godparents. However, the choice is ultimately yours and you can choose whomever you wish. It’s worth considering their current relationship to your child(ren), their parenting style and how physically and mentally capable they are to raise a child.

A common question is can a Guardian also act as an Executor? The answer to this is yes. However, it may be worth splitting up these roles as it will be an awful lot of responsibility to potentially put on one or two people.

Guardians can also be a Beneficiary of your estate, and can sign your Will as a witness if they are not.


Witnesses are essential to making your Will a legal document. Their job is to sign your Will in yours and each other’s presence to confirm that you have made the Will with a sound mind and not under duress. They do not need to see the contents of the Will.

Anyone can be a witness as long as they are:

  • Not a beneficiary in the Will
  • Over 18
  • Of sound mind
  • Not a related to you
  • Not a spouse of a beneficiary

It is absolutely crucial that a witness is not related to you or stand to benefit from the Will. If this happens it will nullify any inheritance they were due. Although a witness cannot be a beneficiary, they can be both a Guardian and Executor of the Will.

When writing a Will it is important to carefully consider who you are appointing for roles that come with responsibilities when you pass away. We are available to guide you through the Will writing process and offer advice where needed. Just give us a call on 0800 088 4670 to arrange an appointment with one of our Will Writing Specialists.

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