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A Guide To Wills

“Nothing is certain except for death and taxes”…

Regrettably one can’t escape either of them, no one likes to think about death, but if we don’t make plans regarding how we would like to distribute our assets amongst our loved ones, it could be storing-up problems for later: in essence, you may be leaving a tangled mess for your grieving family to resolve or not leaving the most tax efficient legacy.

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal declaration of how you wish to dispose of your property on your death and whom you want to carry out your wishes. A number of requirements must be fulfilled to ensure it is valid.

What happens if I do not make a Will?

Rules exist to determine how your money, property and possessions should be allocated. This may not reflect your wishes and unmarried partners (and partners who have not registered a civil partnership) will not inherit automatically.

What information do I need?

Calculate your approximate worth – include bank accounts, investments, properties, pensions etc. Also identify any possessions you wish to pass to a particular person or organisation. Your solicitor will be able to calculate whether your estate is likely to be liable for the payment of Inheritance Tax and advise you regarding what steps should be taken to try and minimize or avoid this liability.

Choose your Executors carefully

Executors are responsible for distributing your estate according to your Will and it is a very responsible role. If you appoint a family member or a friend make sure that they are happy to accept the role. Are they used to accepting such responsibility and are they confident to handle large sums of money or deal with the sale of property?

If your Will is more complex than the norm; or if there is ‘family history’ then you may wish to consider whether it would be more appropriate to appoint an experienced solicitor to fulfil this role.

Consider appointing Guardians

If you leave children under the age of 18 and there is no other living parent there maybe no one who will automatically be appointed the child’s Guardian so you should deal with this issue in your Will.

Consider making specific gifts

Do you have any specific items of value whether financial or sentimental? Do you have any family heirlooms that have been passed down the generations? If so make a specific gift in your Will to a named individual otherwise these items will form part of your residuary estate or may be disposed of during the administration of your estate.

Arrange for the disposal of your residuary estate

Your residuary estate is everything that is left after your debts have been paid and specific gifts accounted for. Consider carefully how you wish this to be divided. If the proposed beneficiary has died before you, do you wish to make arrangements for it to pass to their children? Do you wish to leave a share to a charity or other type of organisation?

In what circumstances is Will advice considered crucial?

•Unmarried Couples – as there is no entitlement under the Intestacy Rules

•Estates over £325,000.00 – as there may be Inheritance Tax implications

•Children from previous relationships – there is a risk they may not inherit from your estate

•Disabled Beneficiaries – to ensure their interest is protected

•If your intended beneficiaries are in difficult financial circumstances; may divorce; predecease you; be declared bankrupt or suffer a mental capacity, to ensure they receive as much of their inheritance as possible

•If you have minor children – to ensure their money is looked after by the right people and guardians are appointed

•If your family members do not get along – to ensure your Will is drafted to avoid foreseeable problems

•If you have foreign assets

Do I need to set up a Trust?

Take advice as to whether you need a Trust to provide for a beneficiary who is under the age of 18 at the date of your death, to provide for a disabled beneficiary, to provide for someone whom you wish to have a life interest i.e. use of an asset but not fully take possession of it, to avoid or reduce liability for Inheritance Tax, or to provide for your beneficiaries regardless of their own circumstances however complicated or undesirable e.g. divorce or bankruptcy.

Sign your Will properly

Strict rules exist setting out how a Will should be signed. If these are not followed the Will may not be valid or a potential beneficiary may miss out on your intended gift.

Store your Will safely: Make sure that your original Will is stored in a safe place where it will be protected from damage.

Wilson Browne Solicitors provide this service free of charge. We also offer a free Will Healthcheck service if you want to check your Will still meets your wishes and needs in the future. Ensure that you have a copy amongst your papers where your executors can find it and keep with it any other instructions you may have such as directions for your funeral. We will also register your Will on the Certainty National database.

Review your Will

Your circumstances will change as the years pass. Ensure that you review your Will every three to five years to consider whether any changes are needed. This may be possible by a simple codicil or the changes may be such that a new Will is required.

Remember that if you marry, and your Will was not prepared in contemplation of that marriage, it will become invalid. A divorce does not have the same effect and you should make a new Will if you have separated from your spouse, civil partner or cohabitee.

Wilson Browne Solicitors generally provide a “Will healthcheck” service free of charge.

How much will it cost to make a Will?

In most circumstances, Wilson Browne Solicitors can offer you a Will on a fixed cost basis, depending on how straightforward or complex your needs and wishes are.

Call us today and speak to our Specialist Team, we are all the help you need.