Your will can be an important way of expressing what you’d like to happen when you die, especially as an LGBTQIA+ person. A lot of it is legally binding, meaning it has to happen as you’ve written it, but there are some limits to this.
"Listening to the voices of LGBTQIA+ people is vital. We often think about how to uplift and empower these voices while we’re living, but we don’t often think about what happens after we die. Writing a will can ensure that our voices remain strong.
It can also feel like a scary thing to do! We hope this detailed guidance from Farewill helps LGBTQIA+ people feel more confident and in control about the way they want to be remembered." -
- Ash Hayhurst (he/him) from GIRES, photo by Fox Fisher
Why might being LGBTQIA+ impact your will?
Writing your will can be daunting, especially if the traditional guidance is not written with your identity in mind
But it can also be an important way of sharing your wishes for what happens after you die.
These wishes will vary from person to person, and your LGBTQIA+ identity could impact them. You might want to:
Leave some money, property or personal items to your partner(s)
Be buried, or have your ashes interred (meaning buried), alongside your partner(s)
Have your partner take care of any children you have that are not biologically related to them
Be buried or cremated in particular clothing, or wearing particular gender-affirming items used for packing and padding
Have your death registered under the legal name you currently use, plus any other names you go by, even if they do not match the ones on your birth certificate
Have your LGBTQIA+ identity reflected in your funeral ceremony
These are all things that you can request in your will. But responsibility for making them happen lies with your executors.
‘Legal name’ is usually the name on your official documents
This can be things like your passport, driving licence and bank cards. This could be different to what was originally on your birth certificate, if you have legally changed your name.
What’s an executor?
An executor is a person you name in your will as responsible for sorting out your affairs after you die
This includes your money, property and belongings. Some people, like lawyers and people who work for HMRC, might refer to this as your ‘estate’. Your executors will also have legal control over what happens to your body after you die, including making decisions about funerals, and anything else that needs to happen after you die. You can name anyone as an executor, as long as they’re over 18 when you die (or 16 in Scotland.) But it tends to involve a lot of work, and some people could find it stressful or time-consuming.
If your LGBTQIA+ identity does impact your wishes, it can be a good idea to make sure your executors are people that know you’re LGBTQIA+.
Your executors should also be people who:
You trust to make decisions on your behalf
You’ve checked are willing to take on the role
Will be able to handle lots of work and responsibility
There might be some people in your life who do not embrace your LGBTQIA+ identity, but still want to control what happens at your funeral. If this is the case, you could name executors who will be able to advocate for you, even in difficult situations.
Making sure the right people inherit
Your will is where you say what you want to happen to your money and belongings after you die
Your ‘residual estate’ is the ‘pool’ of your belongings, money, property and other assets, minus:
Funeral costs, if you (or someone else) has not already covered them
Estate administration fees
Specific gifts you’ve left
You can divide your residual estate between your loved one by percentages in your will. That might sound like “50% will go to my partner and 50% to my best friend”. Or you can leave all of it to one person.Your executor is the person who’s in charge of carrying out these instructions.
Lots of people choose to leave their estate to members of their close family, often their partner(s), children and grandchildren. But you might prefer to give some or all of your money to friends, or to particular charities.
Some people choose to give specific items to particular family members or friends. These items tend to have some sort of shared meaning, like an ornament that brings back happy memories of a particular event.
If you do not say what you’d like to do with particular items, or if there are things left over, these will usually fall into your ‘residual estate’. This can sometimes cause disagreements if multiple people want to inherit a particular item of sentimental value.
If there are particular items you think your loved ones may have disagreements about, it could be a good idea to name specific people to have them.
There are certain people who can ask for money or property from your estate, even if you have not left them anything in your will
These people are your:
Spouse or civil partner, including former spouses or civil partners if they haven’t remarried or entered a new civil partnership
Partner(s) that you’ve been living with for more than two years
Children and dependants, including children you’ve adopted, fostered or looked after as if they were your own children
Other people who were financially dependent on you
Some people call this ‘claiming against your estate’.
They will normally only be able to do this if you’ve left them unable to take care of themselves. For example, if you owned a house and you had been living in it with a partner for more than two years, but you did not leave the house to that partner, they might be able to claim some money or property from your estate.
'Reasonable Provision' for claiming from your estate
Most people who can claim from your estate will be entitled to ‘reasonable provision for their maintenance’. This means - as far as possible - receiving what is reasonable to meet their ongoing needs.
This is different for spouses and civil partners, who are entitled to ‘reasonable provision’. ‘Reasonable provision’ for spouses tends to be roughly what they’d expect to receive if you divorced.
This section refers to ‘misgendering’ - meaning someone referring to you as the wrong gender. Some readers may find this distressing.
If you’re misgendered in someone’s will, this should not impact what you inherit, provided it’s clear it’s you they’re referring to
Some people worry that if someone refers to them in a will with the wrong gendered language, they will then be unable to claim their inheritance. This is not true: you should be able to inherit, but the clearer the will is in identifying you, the easier this process will be.
You could ask that whoever is writing the will also references other identifying features, like your name and date of birth. If it’s unclear who they referred to, you could end up in a legal dispute - and these are often long and expensive.
For example, if you’re a trans woman or non-binary person, and a parent refers to you as their son, you should still be able to inherit whatever they’ve left you - regardless of what name or pronoun you currently use. But to avoid this, you could ask them to mention further identifying features.
This also applies to legal names. Provided it’s clear that you’re who the will refers to, you can inherit - even if the name they use is not your legal name, or the name you use in everyday life.
Families and end-of-life plans
There are some situations where your relatives can apply to deal with your estate and funeral plans
If you do not leave a will, or if your will is not valid, this is called dying 'intestate’
This means no one automatically has the power to deal with your estate. Instead, someone needs to apply to become your ‘administrator’, meaning they take on this power without having a will to work from.
Who can apply depends on how they’re related to you, and whether there are other relatives who could take over.
Whoever becomes your administrator will have to divide up your estate according to the ‘rules of intestacy’, which are special rules for what happens to someone’s estate when they don’t leave a will.
Administrator vs Executor
There are some similarities between being an administrator and an executor. They are both in charge of dealing with the estate of the person who’s died, and making decisions on their behalf...
But Executors are chosen and named in the will of the person who has died. Administrators are usually the next of kin or closest relatives who are entitled to deal with the estate under the rules of intestacy. Administrators can also be those entitled to inherit in the will, if the person who died did not name any executors.
Another difference is that the executor has the power to make decisions from the moment of death, whilst an administrator has to apply for that permission.
These rules tend to mean that your closest relatives can inherit part of your estate, even if you did not want them to
These rules also tend to mean that, if you’re not married to or in a civil partnership with your partner, they will not inherit any of your estate. But they can make a claim against it, as explained above.
Some LGBTQIA+ people might prefer that their family do not have control over what happens after they die
This might be because:
You have a difficult relationship with your family, and worry that they will not respect your wishes for what happens when you die
You’re not in touch with your family, and do not think they’ll be the best people to make decisions on your behalf
You think your family will not understand why certain things are important to you, like having a burial or cremation in clothing that expresses your LGBTQIA+ identity
If you’d rather your family did not make decisions about your estate or what happens to your body after you die, there are some steps you can take to avoid this.
Write a will, and make sure your loved ones know where to find it
Nominate multiple executors, in case your ‘first choice’ is unavailable
Check that your executors understand what they will need to do, and that they’re happy for you to nominate them
Arrange for a professional to be your executor
What are the limits to my will?
You can use your will to specify who should take care of your children, but this has limitations
This only applies to children you have parental responsibility for. This usually means:
You gave birth to the child, and haven’t subsequently given up your parental rights
You’re named on the child’s birth certificate as a parent
You have legally adopted the child
When the child was born, you were married to or in a civil partnership with the person who gave birth
Where someone becomes pregnant through fertility treatment (including being inseminated by a donor), you were married to or in a civil partnership with the pregnant person at the time of the treatment
You have otherwise been legally assigned parental responsibility
You can use your will to say who you’d like to become your child’s legal guardian. This person will take on parental responsibility for your child, meaning they will have a legal requirement to take care of them.
They will only become your child’s guardian if there are no surviving people with parental responsibility. If there is someone else who has parental responsibility for your child, they will usually become their legal guardian, regardless of what you have written in your will.
This means that if you have parental responsibility, but your partner does not, they might not automatically be the person who takes care of your child. They will need to legally adopt your child to become their default guardian.
Surrogacy and the law
If you are a surrogate parent, you will have parental responsibility until someone adopts the child, or you transfer your parental responsibility to someone else.
Surrogacy arrangements can be complicated. You might want to consult with a lawyer or will writer on your specific situation.
You can say what you would like to happen to you after you die in your will, but this is not legally binding
This includes things like:
Whether you want to have a burial or cremation
What clothes, makeup and other accessories you want to wear when you reach your final resting place
The details of your funeral - such as the dress code, venue and who you’d like to attend
Because this part of your will is not legally binding, it’s important to choose executors who will respect your wishes. You could also discuss your wishes with your executors, to make sure you’re all on the same page.
If your family does not know that you’re in an LGBTQIA+ relationship, you might worry that your partner(s) will not get an invitation.
To make sure they can attend, you could:
Write in your will that you’d like them to be at your funeral
Choose executors who know that you and your partner are in a relationship
Speak privately with your executors before you write your will, to let them know that it’s important that your partner is there
Most funerals are public events, so it can be difficult to stop particular people from attending. But you can also ask your executors to make sure certain people are not invited, or that the event is not publicly advertised. This should minimise the chances of unwanted guests.
Funeral plans will sometimes fall through. The venue you want could be unavailable, or your favourite item of clothing might turn out to be made of a material that you cannot wear for a cremation. For this reason, you might give your executors backup options, so they know they’re making choices you agree with.
Write a will from home
Prefer to speak to someone directly? Make a will via telephone and get it delivered to your door with the UK’s #1 will specialists.
Your will can only cover what happens after you die
Your LGBTQIA+ identity might affect who you want to manage your end-of-life care, if you need it.
This person could end up making decisions on your behalf about things like:
Whether you continue taking hormone replacement therapy
Whether your carers dress you in gender-affirming clothing
The people who can visit you, such as your partner(s)
You could make a ‘lasting power of attorney’. This is where you nominate a particular person to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you’re alive, but unable to make decisions by yourself - for example, if you become very unwell.
If your LGBTQIA+ identity is likely to impact these decisions, you could nominate a lasting power of attorney to someone who knows you’re LGBTQIA+, or who you trust to make decisions you’d feel comfortable with.
You can also state particular instructions in your lasting power of attorney - for example, that your attorneys should ensure you continue to be prescribed hormone replacement therapy for as long as possible.
You make a lasting power of attorney by:
Completing a form
Getting some specific people to sign it
Registering it with the Office of the Public Guardian
When you die, whoever has lasting power of attorney will no longer be able to make decisions on your behalf, unless you also nominate them as your executor.
Some people use their will to leave unique gifts for their loved ones. A man in Wales, after learning he had terminal cancer, left £3.5k to his best friends to fund a holiday in Central Europe.
Choosing a will writer
If you’re looking to work with a professional will writer, your LGBTQIA+ identity might impact who you choose
Some people find it easier to get a professional to write their will, especially if their situation is more complicated. But, sadly, not all professional will writers will understand LGBTQIA+ identities.
An LGBTQIA+ friendly will writer will tend to:
Ask for both your legal name and the name you’d like them to use for you
Use gender-neutral language when writing wills
Not make assumptions about the gender of your partner(s)
Allow for complicated family structures
Let you communicate with them over the medium you feel most comfortable, such as online
Offer to consult with you in-person or over the phone if your situation is more complex
Be empathetic and understanding
There are lots of options available when it comes to professional will writers, and you should be able to find someone who respects your identity. If you’re unsure, you could ask your potential will writer what experience they have in working with LGBTQIA+ clients.
Making a detailed will can help your loved ones make decisions that are right for you
Some people find writing their will quite challenging. But it can be an important way of expressing your wishes for what happens to you when you die, especially if you worry there might be disagreements.
If you want some guidance, you could work with a professional will writer. This tends to be an especially good idea if your situation, estate or wishes are more complex.