Wills

Everyone should make a will. It’s your chance to decide what happens to your money, your property and your personal possessions after you die.

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Without a will, these decisions are taken out of your hands and others will decide who should be the person to deal with your estate (the “executor”). This may not necessarily be the most important person in your life, for example an unmarried partner may not get consulted about your wishes.

So a will allows you to choose the executors.  It also enables you to appoint guardians who will be responsible for your children, and it lets you specify how old your children must be before they can get access to any inheritance, while allowing for them to be maintained as they grow up.

You can decide who benefits from your estate, whether friends, family or charities. Your will can set out who you want to be given specific items, and you may include trusts to protect assets. Trusts can be particularly useful if you have complicated family circumstances or if you’re looking to save your family’s inheritance from being taken up in long-term care home fees.

Your will can be used to leave your estate in the most suitable way to save inheritance tax. You may even want to ensure that someone in your family does not benefit or, that if one of your beneficiaries also dies, another person should benefit in their place.  You may also use your will to express your requests for your funeral.

Lots of people put off making their will, but you should never leave such important matters to chance.

Making a Will offers peace of mind about the future.

It is the best way of ensuring that your money and possessions will be passed on to the right people, and that those you care about are looked after and protected as much as possible from heavy tax burdens.

Wills are formal legal documents. Detail is everything. So it is important to understand what making a Will means for you, and the sorts of issues you should think about.

WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE

Not everybody makes a Will. Those who don’t must accept that when they die, the Rules of Intestacy will apply. That means that the law will dictate how their possessions and other assets should be shared out.

Many people aren’t comfortable with the very real risk that the important people in their lives could be left out. That’s why Wills are usually the preferred option.

EXECUTORS AND TRUSTEES

You have probably heard these terms before. But you might not know exactly what they mean, or why they are different to one another.

Let’s start with the similarities. Executors and trustees are those you appoint in your Will to carry out your wishes once you have died. They are people you trust and have confidence in. They can be friends, family members or professionals including lawyers and accountants, and can themselves be beneficiaries of your Will. You are able to appoint the same people to act as your executors and trustees, but we advise to have more than one Executor in most circumstances or at least a replacement.

The main difference between the two roles is that an executor puts your Will into effect, making sure that what you’ve said should be done is done. A trustee holds property on behalf of someone else, for example a child, until that person has reached a certain point in their life.

PROTECTING YOUR SPOUSE

A Will can help ensure that your husband or wife inherits your family home.

If you die “intestate” (without making a Will) and have children or other dependents, your spouse can only receive the first £250,000, plus personal possessions, of your estate outright. So, without a Will, your spouse may not even inherit the whole of your matrimonial home.

THE EFFECT OF A DIVORCE OR REMARRIAGE

Situations change. If your marriage has ended then you should consider whether and how to provide for your family in the future. You may decide that a Will drawn up during that marriage should be changed, for whatever reason.

If you go on to remarry then your existing Will no longer stands. It will have been revoked. So you should review your position and draw up new terms that protect the people you need to.

INHERITANCE TAX

Inheritance Tax is a levy on the estate of a person who has died. It’s much maligned and often dreaded but it can be minimised through effective planning. Our team of specialists can give you sound Inheritance Tax advice and discuss points to consider when making your Will.

GUARDIANS

Think about appointing a guardian, someone you know and trust, for any child of yours who is under the age of 18 at the time of your death. This provision in your Will becomes even more important if your husband or wife has died or dies before you.

YOUNGER BENEFICIARIES

You may want to leave your estate to beneficiaries who are under the age of 18. Setting up a trust helps you achieve that. You can decide in your Will at what age you would like your dependents/younger beneficiaries to inherit. While the legal age is 18, some people think that’s too young and they choose to specify a later age (say, 25). You can also specify in your Will that your trustees can release funds for your dependants/younger beneficiaries before a certain age as long as it is for their maintenance, education or benefit generally. So you may prefer someone to inherit at say 25 years but they can still have funds to assist them in the meantime, say at 18 years for university fees.

MENTALLY INCAPACITATED BENEFICIARIES

If you want or need to provide for someone who is not mentally competent to look after their own affairs, you should consider setting up a trust in your Will. It is quite common to create a discretionary trust which gives trustees a degree of flexibility in making payments to the person concerned or to the home or hospital where the person lives, or to their carer.

COHABITEES OR UNMARRIED COUPLES

The Rules of Intestacy are not kind to cohabiting or unmarried couples. If you die without having made a Will, your partner will need to go through a difficult process of proving their dependency on you. It’s far better to provide for them in a Will; your intentions will be clearly understood and carried out, and the dependency test should not need to come into it.

PROTECTING YOUR ASSETS AGAINST CLAIMS

Your spouse might choose to remarry after your death. The estate you left them could, in turn, be left to that new partner and/or new family. In fact, that often happens unintentionally when, unbeknown to your spouse, your Will is revoked by their new marriage.