Preparation of Wills
Why make a Will?
Most people appreciate that it is extremely important to make a Will, but either never get around to it, or continue to put it off on the basis that they are too young or it is too morbid to think about, and it is something that they will do when they are much older. Unfortunately, six out of ten people die before they get around to it. None of us are too young to make a Will, we all have assets to leave, and in most cases, dependants to provide for.
Making a Will is expressing your freedom of choice and it is a right which everyone should exercise. By making a Will, you will determine who will receive your money and property, rather than it being left to rules of law to decide. Furthermore, it will help to give peace of mind to those you leave behind.
What happens if I die without a Will?
The rules of intestacy will then determine what happens to your property, who is entitled to it and who is to administer it. These rules are not what most people might expect and very few would find the operation of these rules wholly satisfactory. Your estate may be more complicated to administer and your property may not pass to those who you would wish to receive it. For instance, a surviving spouse may not necessarily receive the whole of the deceased spouse’s estate.
What can a Will achieve?
It will appoint executors who will be responsible for administering your estate in accordance with the terms of your Will. You can appoint anyone to be your executor, up to a maximum number of 4 people. Your Will can give some money, or specific items, including bequests to favourite charities, it will set out who will be entitled to the residue of your estate. If your children are to benefit it can specify that they will not do so until they reach a certain age, i.e. 21, and for those with young children you can choose your own guardians, thus avoiding family arguments which might arise if guardians were not appointed.
It can grant additional powers to the executors, such as wider power to invest for the benefit of any children without which their powers are somewhat limited. It can state what kind of funeral arrangements you would like. You may be able to use it to limit the amount of inheritance tax that would be payable on your estate.
Many people these days leave estates above the current inheritance tax threshold limit.
What about reviewing my Will?
You should look at your Will every year to check that it still reflects your wishes. Circumstances change, people die, children are born etc. Furthermore, certain events will affect an existing will, marriage will revoke a Will unless specifically made in contemplation of that marriage. Divorce may remove the divorced spouse as a beneficiary depending upon the wording of the Will. However, once you have made a Will it is easy to change it from time to time and we will be happy to do so.
Can I make my own Will?
Yes you can, but making your own will using a blank form purchased from newsagents can be a dangerous exercise. Unfortunately, a home made Will can often create more problems than if a Will had not been made at all. The main reason is that the rules of law in relation to the interpretation of Wills are extremely strict, complicated and in some cases somewhat unusual.
This can result in simple every day language, sometimes failing to have the desired effect. A Will must also be properly executed by yourself and two witnesses. A badly worded or incorrectly executed Will can have catastrophic consequences. It is much safer to consult a solicitor.