Should I write a Will?
Yes, without a valid Will you have no control over what happens to your possessions when you die or who will benefit from them. When a person passes away intestate (with no will) the Law decides what will happen to their estate. Your estate is everything you own including personal possessions, family heirlooms and even pets. The Intestacy Laws may not reflect your wishes or the best interests of your loved ones.
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that dictates how the deceased’s estate should be distributed upon their death. Your estate can include property, cash money, investments and personal possessions.
What are the benefits of having a Will?
Having a Will can make the process of managing your assets much easier for your family or friends.
Having a Will ensures that your loved ones are provided for once you are gone. It is especially important if you have a partner but are not married or in a civil partnership. Partners are not officially recognised by the law which favours blood relatives.
If you have children having a Will is essential to ensure that they are properly provided for. A Will is used to designate your children’s Legal Guardians if they were to be orphaned. It can also provide instruction on how and when their inheritance should be used. As well as conditions for inheriting when they reach adulthood.
A well written Will can help to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that would be payable upon your estate. Simply choosing the right beneficiaries can help to reduce or completely eliminate your Inheritance Tax liability. Distributing your estate wisely can also affect how much inheritance tax is payable upon a spouses death.
In certain circumstances, having a Will can remove the need for your executors to apply for a grant of probate. This is only in cases where the estate is either held in joint names or consists of low value liquid assets. For example cash amounts held with financial institutions. A lot of institutions reduce their threshold (the value they will release without a grant of probate) when there is no Will . Having a valid Will means that a greater amount can be released which in turn may result in a grant not being required. (Although it is good practice to obtain a grant of probate just in case)
What happens when I don’t have a Will?
When you die without a Will, known as dying intestate, you have no choice over what happens to your possessions. Your estate will be distributed according to a predefined set of Rules established by the state called the Rules of Intestacy. These Rules favour your next of kin, starting with spouse, then children and so on. If no relation can be found your estate will be collected by the crown. As of October 2018 there are 8893 estates on the Governments Unclaimed Estates list.
Things to think about when writing a Will
Before sitting down and committing to writing your Will it’s important to have an idea of what you want to achieve. As everyone’s estate is different a well written Will can guide the way to a smooth estate administration. It will also ensure your beneficiaries are well looked after.
When writing your Will there are a few things you should consider.
How much your estate will be worth. – This means giving a monetary value to everything you own. This includes property, cash and investments, vehicles and chattel. Having a good understanding of your financial holdings can also allow you the time to “tidy up” your assets. In turn making your executor’s job a little bit easier. Also knowing the value of your estate gives you the opportunity to distribute your estate in a way that best takes advantage of any exemptions that are available.
Who you want to inherit your assets and how they should be split. – For some people this may be a simple case of splitting everything equally but for others it can be a lot more complicated. By writing a Will you are able to leave your estate to whomever you want. This gives you the opportunity to dictate who will receive what and how much. Choosing the right distribution can reduce inheritance tax liability. As well as the possibility of disputes and contention.
How to protect your wishes if your circumstances change. – No one can be sure of the future so it is important to think about how to express your wishes in a way that will reflect changes in your life. It is suggested that you update your will every 3 years but according to the telegraph more than half of UK adults don’t have a Will so this may not be a realistic expectation. Therefore it is even more important that you have a well written will that reflects your basic wishes as well as be able to stand up to the test of time. This may mean including some specific clauses or setting up trusts whilst you still have the opportunity. However a current Will is always the best option when you face dramatic life changes. For example getting marriage, getting divorced or having children.
How to protect those who are dependent on you. – If you have children or are a care giver to a vulnerable adult having a Will is your final way of ensuring they are going to be protected and provided for in the way you would want. A Will is used to designate who you want to look after your children (their Guardians) if you were to pass away. You can also set out terms for how and when their inheritance should be accessed.
What type of Will do I need?
There are a few different types of Will. However your circumstances will dictate which one is best suited to your needs.
A single Will is for an individual. This will expresses an individual’s wishes independently of anyone else’s. This type of Will is most commonly used by a person who is unmarried or not in a civil partnership. It is also useful for people who have children from multiple relationships. As it can be used to ensure that all of their children are equally accounted for.
A single Will with Trust
A trust document can be included in a Single Will if the testator wishes to make provision for a minor or vulnerable dependent. A trust will designate a Trustee as well as set out guidelines for how it should be created, managed and wound down.
Mirrored Wills are for a couple who wish to reflect similar wishes. These are most often used by married couples, couples in a civil partnership or unmarried couples. These types of Wills express similar wishes for both partner often leaving their estate to the survivor. They will also include clauses to account for how the estate (now combined together) should be distributed upon the second death.
Mirrored Wills with Trust
A trust document can be included in both Wills and can either be created upon the first or second death depending on what the trust is for. Trusts can be a useful instrument for reducing exposure to inheritance tax or protecting your assets from your partner remarrying or their future care costs.
What are the costs?
Lifetime Legal Members receive a Free Standard or Mirror Wills which can be updated whenever you need for free! Read more about our Will service here as well as the other benefits you will receive as a Lifetime Legal Member.
Call 0344 880 2087 to speak to an adviser about becoming a member and receiving your free standard Will or Mirror Wills.