Making a will is about ensuring you can support your family and friends in the way you wish. Without a will, the State directs who benefits from your estate, so your friends, family, children, favourite charities and relatives may not benefit.
As a qualified Solicitor and Notary, I’ll ensure you get the legal formalities correct. There are legal traps. For instance, anyone who currently depends on you financially can ask a court to review your Will, if they feel your Will didn’t provide for them.
Making a Will: why
Making a will if you are not married to your partner is particularly important. The law does not automatically recognise partners as having the same rights as husbands and wives. There are couples who lived together for many years, and the partner was left with nothing, because there was no Will.
If your children or dependants aren’t able to care for themselves, then a will is vital. Without a Will there could be uncertainty about who will look after or provide for them if you die.
Paul Gittins can also advise you on how Inheritance Tax affects what you own.
You should also consider taking legal advice about making a Will if:
- Several people could make a claim on your estate when you die because they depend on you financially;
- Your permanent home is not in the UK or you are not a British citizen;
- You live in the UK, but you have overseas property; or
- You own all or part of a business.
Re-Making a Will as circumstances change
You should review your Will at least every five years. Even if you have a Will, then your Will could be invalid or inadequate if your circumstances change, e.g. after
- Having a child;
- Moving house.
So please regularly review your Will so it reflects any major life changes. I can tell you what changes may be necessary to update your Will. Often you can make minor changes, termed ‘codicils’, to your existing Will.
Making a Will with a Lawyer
Making a will without a Lawyer’s assistance is possible. I wouldn’t advise this, because you should follow some legal formalities to ensure you Will is valid. A simple mistake could cause problems for your bereaved family.
Before we meet, it would be useful if you would like to review my Wills questionnaire. If you know the answers to all the questions, you’ll reduce costs.
Making a Will: Consider these issues
When we write your will, I will need the following details:
What you own
Details of everything you own which includes:
- Personal valuables,
- Stocks and shares,
- Bank accounts,
- Insurance policies,
- Businesses you own,
Please also provide an approximate total value.
Who gets what
The next issue is:
- To which people do you want to leave your estate?
- How do you want to divide your estate between your loved ones, friends or charities?
- Are there any conditions you want to attach to these gifts?
Family and other beneficiaries
I need the details of your family and marital status, as there may be legal pitfalls. For instance, anyone who depends on you financially can ask a court to review your Will if they feel you have not provided properly for them.
- Are you divorced, re-married or living with a partner?
- Do you have any children or any other dependants? If your children are under 18 when you die, you may need to name a legal guardian.
Many people have particular wishes for their funeral, e.g. to be buried or cremated, or a particular type of service. It helps your family decide “what you would have wanted”.
If you wish to be an organ donor this can be included in your Will. However, it is also a good idea to carry an organ-donor card.
Executors of your Will
You must name the people you appoint as ‘executors’ of your Will. These people will carry out the administration of your Will after your death.
Executors could be friends or family members, or a professional such as your lawyer. A good combination would be a friend or family member and a professional. Ideally, you should choose someone who is familiar with financial matters. Make sure you ask your executors whether they are happy to take on this duty as there are long-term responsibilities involved. It is a good idea to ask someone younger than you.
Since 6th April 2010 the Inheritance Tax (“IHT”) threshold is £325,000. See this link for the latest HMRC information on inheritance tax. I can estimate how much Inheritance Tax your estate could pay, and suggest ways to mitigate this tax. These discussions are complex, and are best conducted face to face.
Signing the Will
Once the Will has been drawn up it is not effective until it has been signed. There are several rules affecting the signature process which, if not followed correctly, invalidate your Will. For example, witnesses and their husbands and wives cannot benefit under the Will.
Where to keep the Will
It is important to keep your Will in a safe place and tell your executors or a close friend or relative where it is.
Why not call me for an informal discussion to discuss drawing up your Will. My charges will depend on the complexity, but I’ll provide a VAT free estimate.