What does a Will do?
Plain & simple, they enable you to choose what happens to your estate on death.
There is nothing more important than ensuring that all you have worked hard for passes to those who matter to you upon death. Preparing and signing a Will allows you to think about your wishes and ensure they will be honoured on your death.
Why do I need a Will?
Without a Will you have no say in how your estate will be dealt with or by whom. The Rules of Intestacy will govern what happens to your assets if you do not have a Will. Your family may not end up with all that you wish or their future may be complicated by assets going elsewhere or into unnecessary trusts. It can also lead to delay in Probate as no one has any immediate authority to deal with your estate.
You decide when you make a Will who you leave your assets to. As soon as you begin to save, purchase your first home, have your first child or inherit money a Will becomes important. It needs to be reviewed regularly and particularly when there is a life changing event like a birth, marriage, divorce or death.
As long as you are able to give instructions and have capacity to make a Will you can. You choose who you want to be your executor. You choose who you want to be the guardian of your young children. You choose who you leave your personal items to and you choose who you want to receive your money, your home and your stocks and shares.
Many people think that making a Will is easy. It can be, but your assets, the value of those assets, your personal circumstances and where you live can make things much more complicated. Wills can help with these complications too. However, the real value in making a Will, in our opinion, is the surrounding aspects: the opportunity to consider the future; to plan; to consider things that normally get overtaken by living life and work; and the advice we provide.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the different types of Wills?
To be honest, every will is different so there are so many you cannot count! Every will differs according to a person's personal and financial circumstances, so no two wills are the same. If you have a look on our will section of the website, we have tried to identify wills by circumstances. This may be a better way of defining a will. There are some things you need to include in a will if you have children, are divorced, are looking at care planning or are looking to protect family members. There are also different levels of advice you need according to the value and nature of your assets.
Do I need a lawyer to write my Will?
Not necessarily! You can make your own will without seeking legal advice. Of course, as lawyers we would say that! As long as a will is in writing, made by someone who has capacity to make it, is signed by the person making the will in the presence of two independent witness who have also signed, and it is dated a will is valid. It is not the preparation of a will by a lawyer that makes it valid.
The value that a lawyer brings to making a will is the advice they provide in relation to taxation, care planning, conflict of interest and practicalities. They are also familiar with the terminology that is used to interpret wills by the Courts so can add valuable insight into what could be the difference between a valid will or an invalid will.
What is better a Will or a Trust?
Wills and trusts are two different things so neither is better than the other. It depends upon what you want and need. A will kicks in upon the death of a person. A trust can be created during someone's lifetime or under the terms of their will. A will can create a trust.
You may if you are lucky, actually need both, depending upon your circumstances.
If you are looking to see whether a trust made during your lifetime to dispose of assets is better than a will it very much depends upon your circumstances. There are several traps that you can fall into when making lifetime trusts. You also need to be able to give away the assets that you put into a lifetime trust and never need them back. A will gives things away upon your death when you no longer need them.
Who are beneficiaries of a Will?
There is no right or wrong answer to this. Your will leaves your assets to your beneficiaries. A beneficiary could be your spouse or partner, your children and grandchildren, other family members, close friends, or charities.
A beneficiary is the person(s) that you identify in your will who you wish to receive assets whether this be something specific a small cash gift or a larger part of your estate.
You can have as many as you like - just remember however the fingers of the person typing the will if you decide to have thousands of beneficiaries and the size of the document you will have to sign!
What is the role of an executor?
An executor is the person appointed under a will to act in connection with the administration of an estate. They gain their power from the will which appoints them. Their job is to identify the assets in the estate and the liabilities, work out whether there is tax to pay on death, and complete the relevant H M Revenue & Customs and Probate Registry paperwork if it is necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate.
The executor must then gather and encash the assets in the estate, pay the bills outstanding at death and those which have accumulated during the administration period and distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the will.
What should I never put in my Will?
A will is a place to detail what you want to happen to your assets on death and how you wish these to pass to those who are important to you. It is always important to carefully word gifts in your will to avoid giving something away that you might not have at your death. For example you do not want to give your Santander account 12345678 if you might close it before you die because the beneficiary will not inherit, so you might need to leave this account or whatever account it has changed to or become to that particular beneficiary.
What I think is more important however to leave out is a clause in your will which goes into detail why you have excluded a beneficiary from your estate. These are often sensitive issues. By all means you can say that you have specifically excluded a beneficiary but if you feel the need to tell people why do this in a separate letter to your executors which sits with your will.
Your will is a private document before a Grant of Probate is issued so anything that you write in it remains confidential. However, once a Grant of Probate has been issued it becomes a public document which means that anyone can apply to the Probate Registry for a copy. Therefore, I would not include any sensitive reasons as to your thoughts; you really don't want the world to see you airing your family disputes in public.