Things to consider when making a Will
When a person dies in the UK without leaving a Will, this is known as intestate. Only certain people such as the deceased’s husband, wife or civil partner or indeed close relatives can benefit under the rules of intestacy and with a recent study confirming dying intestate typically costs heirs near £10,000 in lost assets, having a valid and up to date Will can prevent an unnecessary loss of assets. By having a professionally drafted Will in place, you can specify exactly how you want your estate (your property and possessions) to be split and you can also include a note of your final wishes to make this known to your loved ones.
There are a number of other things you can include in your Will: We recommend/It is worth using a trained Will writer as they will help guide you through the whole process and will help ensure everything is covered.
What to consider when writing your Will
What is an executor and who should it be?
An executor is the person named in a Will who is given the legal responsibility to handle your affairs after your death. This includes but is not limited to, dealing with all paperwork related to your estate, gathering your assets, ensuring any debts or bills left behind are paid and distributing the money you have left from your estate in accordance with your wishes set out in your Will.
As the executor to your Will plays a very important role, first and foremost you should choose someone you fully trust – and of course someone who is level-headed and organised enough to deal with financial matters. By appointing two executors to your Will, they can both support each other through what is an emotional time and is also a precaution in the eventuality that one executor passes away.
What happens to your property when you die?
For the majority of people who have purchased their own home, it is likely to be the most valuable asset they own, therefore it is important to ensure wishes are set out in a Will.
Under survivorship law, if a home is owned jointly by two spouses, the surviving spouse will inherit most or all of the estate. If you have a mirror Will (a Will for spouses which is identical to each other in terms of executor(s) and beneficiaries) then your children and/or beneficiaries will inherit upon the second death.
If you don’t have a Will, your children and/or beneficiaries could be at risk of receiving less inheritance or no inheritance at all. This is because everything will have been passed to the surviving spouse, and if they were to remarry or have more children, their inheritance from your share of the estate is impacted.
Additionally, if you have children from a previous relationship and you own your home jointly with your new partner, then children from the previous relationship could be unintentionally disinherited also. To ensure your children inherit, you must have a Will in place that reflects your wishes.
To ensure your beneficiaries are definitely guaranteed to inherit a share of the property, you should consider putting it into Trust upon death; this is set up as a Property Protection Trust (known more commonly as a Trust Will). You can find more about this here.
In the last year, £8 million of money and property went to the Crown due to increasing numbers of people dying intestate – don’t let this happen to you. If you die intestate with no living relatives, your full estate (property and possessions) will automatically belong to the Crown. Therefore, should you have no living relatives but wish to leave your home, or part of it to a close friend or non-relative, this would also have to be documented in your Will.
Do I need to appoint guardians?
If you have any children under the age of 18, you should appoint a legal guardian who would act in their best interests should you and your partner pass away. There are no rules as to who you should select as a guardian, however, similar to choosing an executor, you should choose someone you fully trust to look after your children. When choosing, you should consider their own parenting style (providing they have their own children), the stability of their family home and also their financial stability.
In the event that the named guardian is also a trustee of the Will, it is advisable to name a solicitor or accountant as another trustee to avoid a conflict of interest that may arise in how the Will is carried out.
Can you leave gifts in your Will?
Yes, there are three types of gift that you can leave in your Will – specific gifts, pecuniary gits and residuary gifts. Specific gifts are gifts that involve physical items such as fine jewellery, timepieces, clothing, vintage furniture etc and when deciding whether to leave a specific gift, you should consider who would most benefit from the items after your death. If you have any special family items such as your grandmother’s engagement ring, you should note in your Will that you wish this to be passed down as an heirloom.
Pecuniary gifts on the other hand are gifts involving money. For example, out of your estate you may wish to leave a specified sum of money to members of your family. It is worth bearing in mind, if you are leaving a pecuniary gift to someone under the age of 18, as they are deemed to lack the legal capability to receive a gift, you can instruct your executors to gift to their parent’s to ensure the money is used wisely or kept as an investment for their future.
Recent figures show one in three people would consider leaving a gift to charity in their Will and this would also fall into the category of pecuniary gifts. Dependent on how much of your estate you choose to leave to charity, the amount of inheritance tax you pay may be reduced.
Residuary gifts are whatever is left of your property once all outstanding debts or payments have been. This means, if there are no outstanding debts, the family home can be given to your chosen beneficiaries, such as your children.
Letter of wishes
When you have included all the key details in your Will, you have the option to include a letter of wishes and this is an informal document where you can set out a guide to your executors on almost anything you wish. This is an ideal opportunity to include specific instructions for example, the music you want played at your funeral, your favourite flowers, where you would like your ashes to be scattered (if this is your chosen option) and also how you would like the money you leave behind to be managed.
When your Will has been drafted, it’s important to revisit it every now and again and reflect on changes in circumstance and we highly recommend using a professional Will writer to help as even the smallest mistakes can invalidate a Will. If you want to find out more about our personal Will writing service, request an info pack here.
At Golden Charter, our Wills are drafted by professional, specialist Will writers meaning your Will is legally valid and you can rest safe in the knowledge that it contains everything you want it to. Click here to find out more about our Wills.