What should happen to your estate and ensuring your loved ones are taken care of cannot be underestimated. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by creating a Will. This comprehensive guide will delve into the process, ensuring you’re well-equipped to make informed decisions every step of the way.
#1 Understanding the Basics
A Will is a legally binding document that outlines how you want your assets, property, and wealth to be distributed upon your death.
The importance of a Will cannot be overstated. Without one, you risk leaving the distribution of your estate to the intestacy rules, which might not be what you intend. Moreover, ensuring that your Will is well thought and structured can help to avoid potential disputes among beneficiaries.
#2 The Importance of Professional Guidance
The digital age has brought with it a plethora of DIY Will templates. While these might seem like a cost-effective solution, the complexities of estate distribution, inheritance tax planning, and legal prerequisites often necessitate professional guidance.
Solicitors, with their vast experience and expertise, can provide invaluable guidance, recommendations and tips. They ensure your Will is both legally compliant and reflective of your wishes. They can advise on potential pitfalls where what you may wish to include can cause problems during the administration. They can also advise on inheritance tax and the most tax efficient way of passing your estate to your beneficiaries.
#3 Step-by-Step Process
When making a Will with a professional you may be asked to complete a Questionnaire setting out all your and your family’s personal details, your assets and liabilities and your intentions. This allows your lawyer to perform an initial assessment of your requirements.
You will then usually hold a face-to-face or online meeting with your solicitor to discuss the contents of your estate and who you want to leave your estate to. Once your solicitor has your instructions they will then draft a Will and advise you on contents for you to amend or approve.
A final version of your Will will then be prepared for you to sign. There is a specific way that Wills must be signed in order for them to be valid. You solicitor will advise you on how to sign your Will to ensure it is valid. Your solicitor will also advise you on how to store your Will and will often provide a storage service.
#4 Choosing an Executor
The role of an executor is one of great responsibility. An executor is tasked with the crucial role of carrying out the provisions in your Will.
Choosing the right executor is paramount. They’ll be responsible for tasks ranging from distributing your estate and paying any outstanding debts to ensuring all taxes (including inheritance tax) are paid. They may also be a trustee of any trust within your Will and may be responsible for any funds for any minor beneficiaries until they reach the age of 18. It’s often recommended to choose someone trustworthy and responsible.
#5 Choosing Guardians for minor children
This is often a sticking point for people and arguably one of the most important decisions parents need to make. You can name the person or persons who you would like to be the legal guardian for your children if you are no longer around. They will make the day to day decisions regarding the upbringing of your children. As a parent, appointing guardians in your Will and discussing with those people how you envisage your children’s future can bring great peace of mind.
#6 Asset Protection
Trusts within your Will can help to protect assets for future generations. You may be concerned that if everything is left to your spouse or civil partner they may not leave anything they inherit from you to your children or your intended beneficiaries. Trusts can be used to provide for your surviving spouse/partner during their lifetime but on their death, your assets revert to your chosen beneficiaries.
Trusts can also be used to protect funds for beneficiaries that are vulnerable or have problems with money. Giving beneficiaries the support of funds that they can benefit from but not own outright, can be invaluable. It can help to protect state benefits for any beneficiary that is in receipt of them. It can also protect funds for beneficiaries who are divorcing.
#7 Keeping Your Will Updated
Life is a series of evolving events. Marriages, births, property acquisitions, and other significant milestones can change the landscape of your estate and wishes. As such, it’s essential to review and update your will regularly. A lot of single people don’t know that unless a Will is made in contemplation of marriage or civil partnership the Will they have made becomes invalid as soon as they marry or enter into a civil partnership.
Every time you experience a significant life event, such as marriage, the birth of a child, or the acquisition of substantial assets, it’s a good reminder to revisit your will. Keeping it updated ensures it remains a true reflection of your wishes.
#8 Storing Your Will
Once you’ve crafted your Will, its safe storage becomes paramount. It’s of no use if it can’t be found upon your passing. Many opt for storing their Will with their solicitor, in a safe deposit box, or even at home in a fireproof safe.
Wills can also be registered with Certainty, which is the national register of Wills.
It is recommended that you tell your executors where your Will is stored and to keep an up to date record of your financial assets with your Will so that they can easily be identified.
#9 Avoiding Common Pitfalls
The allure of easily accessible DIY Wills can be strong, especially with the promise of reduced costs. However, they come with inherent risks. Without the expertise of a advice, important issues might be overlooked. This oversight can lead to potential disputes or worse, your will being deemed invalid, leaving your estate’s distribution to the default rules of intestacy.
The process of making a will might seem daunting, but with the right guidance, it becomes a straightforward task. It may seem an expensive exercise but throughout your lifetime you may not need to change it again meaning it is a one off cost. By investing time now in creating a comprehensive, valid will, you’re taking a significant step in protecting your estate and ensuring your loved ones are cared for in the manner you deem fit.
How do I start making my will?
Begin by listing your assets, from property in the UK or overseas to personal possessions. Decide who you want to appoint as your executors and guardians for minor children. Think about who you want to benefit under your Will and what you would want to happen if any of those you to choose to benefit were to die before you. Consider seeking professional advice to ensure all legal requirements are met.
Can I create a will on my own?
While DIY templates are available, it’s recommended to consult with a solicitor for expert guidance.
What’s the role of an executor in a will?
An executor is responsible for distributing your estate, paying any debts and taxes, and ensuring all legal requirements are met. They may also be the trustee of any trusts in your Will which may include holding funds for young beneficiaries until they reach the age of 18.
How can I update an existing will?
If you have a valid Will in place you cannot amend it legally by simply writing the changes on it. You may need to make a new Will or a Codicil which is an addendum to your Will altering the provisions of your original Will. These have to be signed in the legally correct way to be valid. It’s essential to review your will regularly and make amendments as needed in the right way, especially after significant life events.