A Will is often one of those things on the to-do list that never actually gets done – one in three people dies without leaving a Will. The main consequence of not writing a Will is that the distribution of your estate is decided by law regardless of any wishes you might have had (dying intestate). Writing a Will need not be complicated. Our resident experts Ashtons Legal have helped us to bring together the 10 most important Will considerations for you.
1. Plan it out
The first of our Will considerations is to prepare a list of everything that you own – known as your estate.
Your estate may include:
- Single or jointly owned property or assets (which will usually pass to the surviving owner, such as a husband, wife, child, or sibling)
- Assets held in trust such as life insurance policies or pension benefits
- Physical items such as cars and jewellery
- Bonds, shares, bank account details and ISAs
- Debts and liabilities
2. Decide who you want to write your Will
Consider the different options for writing a Will. Solicitors, such as Ashtons Legal provide a Will-writing service often for a fixed fee, depending on the complexity of your affairs. You can write the Will yourself of course, or there are online Will-writing services. Find our guide on how to write a Will for more information on the different available options.
There are many reasons that you might wish to get the advice from a solicitor when writing a Will. This is particularly the case if your estate is valuable or complicated, you have a lot of beneficiaries; or you want to make sure you have considered everything you need to regarding your wIll.
3. Is there anyone who is financially dependent on you?
For many people, one of the key Will considerations is how to continue to support family members/others who are financially dependent on you. Try and think long-term, and different eventualities. For example, you can use your Will to set aside money for the use of a surviving spouse in their lifetime, with it then passing to children.
4. Name the beneficiaries in your Will
When leaving an estate to more than one beneficiary, your Will has to explain exactly how it is to be shared amongst them. This might include allocating specific sums of money, a possession, or a percentage of the estate. Make a list of who you wish to be written into a Will ahead of making it, so that nobody is forgotten. A solicitor will be able to advise you on different ways to divide assets and provide for successive generations, so do not feel that you need to be certain about your wishes before you meet with them.
If you wish to donate some money to charity then your Will should include the charity’s full name, address and registered charity number.
5. Consider unexpected problems
Sadly even the best made plans are susceptible to the unexpected, so consider the possibility that a beneficiary might die before the Will is required. You can do this by stating who their share passes to in the event that they are unable to accept it themselves.
6. Naming an executor in a Will
The executors of a Will are the people responsible for distributing the estate amongst the beneficiaries and ensuring that any taxes and outstanding debts are paid.
Ideally, it is recommended to choose at least two (and up to four) executors. They are all required to act jointly in any decision which might influence who is chosen.
An executor can be a close family member who is also a beneficiary, though they must be at least 18 years of age.
Administering an estate after someone’s death can be time-consuming and complicated even if the estate is fairly straightforward. Consider who is most able to accomplish this task and let them know that you have chosen them to be an executor. Your executor can decide to instruct a firm of solicitors to act on their behalf. Alternatively, you can appoint a solicitors to act as your Executors if you wish.
7. Keep it Clear and Simple
To make sure that the Will is correctly understood, the words used when writing it should be chosen carefully. This helps to ensure that the wishes set out within it are clear, without ambiguity. This is one of the aspects of preparing a Will that solicitors are most adept at, however, Will writing services and online templates can both help you to make sure that the language you use is unambiguous.
8. Consider Inheritance Tax
Inheritance tax is the tax applied to an estate after the estate holder dies, before it is passed to the beneficiaries. It is the job of the executor(s) to make sure any inheritance tax due is paid.
The rules around inheritance tax are complicated, though there are exemptions. Fortunately, Age Space has guides to help you understand inheritance tax and tips on reducing inheritance tax.
Inheritance tax can be a complicated subject to navigate. If you use a solicitor to write your Will they will be able to advise on Inheritance Tax planning to help avoid paying tax unnecessarily, or worse, being unprepared for an Inheritance Tax bill which becomes payable after your death from your estate.
9. Witnesses and signing a Will
Of all the Will considerations, this one is arguably the most important. For a Will to be valid, it must be signed in the presence of at least 2 other people, both of whom are not beneficiaries of the Will, or a spouse or civil partner of a beneficiary. They must watch you sign it and then in-turn sign it in your presence. Think about who you want to witness the signing and how you can all be present. Up until the 31st January 2022, the government are allowing Wills to be signed over video call although the rules surrounding this are complex.
10. Storing a Will
The final consideration when writing a Will is where it will be stored. If you go through a solicitor or Will writing service, often they will offer Will storage options for an additional fee or for free. There are also separate Will storage companies and Probate Services that can look after a Will. Your bank might also be able to store your Will. Alternatively you can keep your Will safe yourself or entrust it to your chosen executor.
When you store your Will try not to use staples or paperclips to keep it together – as this can cause complications if they become dislodged or are misplaced. Wherever you choose your executor must know and have access to the location of it.
If you choose not to ask your solicitor look after your Will, please inform your Executors of where you are keeping it.
Ashtons Legal is a large firm of solicitors with a team which includes lawyers who are members of Solicitors for the Elderly, those who are accredited by the Society of Trust and Estates Practitioners, a specialist on Continuing Care funding issues, and specialists to advise where someone holds overseas assets as well as property in the UK. If you would like further information, please contact Ashtons Legal by following the link.