Before drafting your Will with a Will Writer or solicitor it is a good idea to do a bit of preparation. We’ve designed the ultimate guide and checklist for making a Will to help you understand the types of questions you’ll be asked and what you need to consider before making your Will.
Why Make a Will?
If you die without a Will in place your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. Intestacy is therefore the condition of the estate belonging to a person that dies without a Will or binding declaration. Intestacy makes it hard for non married partners, step children and other beneficiaries to inherit.
If you have children, a written will allows you to specify who should look after your children and enables you to make financial provisions. This is particularly important if your children are under 18 and you aren’t married or in a civil partnership.
How to Make a Will?
It is a common misconception that Wills have to be drawn up by Solicitor. However, while solicitors can advise on Probate Law it isn’t necessary to use a solicitor and can be more expensive. Will Writers are a good alternative to using a solicitor. Not only do they have the required legal knowledge but they’re also in a better position to give advice about financial circumstances.
Many people believe that they can draft their own Wills. If your estate is straightforward, i.e your estate is worth less than the inheritance tax threshold and you have minimal beneficiaries, then this may be an option. However, if you choose to go down this route, it is important to be aware of how easy it is to make mistakes.
- Not making it a legally binding record: In order for a Last Will and Testament to be valid, it needs to be signed and witnessed by two independent people that are not beneficiaries or executors of the Will.
- It is easy to underestimate the value of your estate: People often forget about pensions, life insurance policies and savings.
- Failing to regularly update the Will: If your circumstances change – you get married, divorce, move house, have a child, or your beneficiaries or executors die, your Will should reflect these changes. By using a professional, they will take the responsibility of reminding you to update your Will and oversee these changes for you.
- Changes to a Will aren’t legally binding: When making changes to a Will, these need to be witnessed in the same way in order to make them valid.
- Being unaware of the Law: If you don’t have knowledge of Probate law you may be unaware of the rules and therefore some of your wishes could be overturned. This can result in beneficiaries and dependants missing out on inheritance.
For these reasons we would strongly suggest taking advice from a Will Writer. Will Writers can walk you through all the options, provide crucial advice on sensitive matters and more importantly, help you to to reduce the amount of tax payable on the inheritance, if applicable.
Tips for Choosing a Will Writer.
When looking for a Will Writer make sure that they are well established and trust worthy. Check that they are regulated or belong to an official representative body, like the Society of Will Writers. They should have reviews and customer testimonials readily available. If they don’t, ask for them! After an initial conversation you’ll get a sense of whether they have your best interest at heart. They will ask a lot of personal and probing questions, but this is good. They are simply making sure that you have given it some thought and making the right decision for YOU!
What your Will Needs to Include
Use the following section as a checklist. This will help you understand and prepare for the types of questions your Will Writer will ask when drafting your Will.
Information about You (Personal Details)
You will need to provide details of:
- Your full name
- Date of birth
- Marital status
- Employment status
- Relationship status
- Names and DOB of your children.
Value of Your Estate
To calculate the value of your estate (everything you own of value), you will need to have details ready. This may include information about:
Properties: Do you own or have joint ownership of any properties? Do you owe any money on the mortgage, if so how much? Or are your properties fully paid for?
Valuable Items: What valuable items do you have? Cars, computers, antiques, jewellery and heirlooms.
Finances: Savings accounts, bank or building society accounts, bonds, shares, pensions, trust funds, etc.
Money owed: What money do you owe in terms of personal loans, students loans, credit cards and mortgages.
Once we have all of this information we will be able to calculate the net value of everything belonging to you. This is known as your estate.
Understanding this will help the Will Writer advise on how to distribute your estate while minimising the about of inheritance tax. They can offer services like family Trusts or talk to you about alternative wishes in the event that your partner should die first. Basically, they are really good at covering all bases.
Choosing An Executor(s)
An executor is responsible for overseeing your estate when you die and ensuring that your ‘instructions’ are carried out accordingly.
The roles and responsibilities of an executor are complex. It is therefore a good idea to select someone who is organised and good at managing finances, and keeping the peace with family members. As well as ensuring that all beneficiaries receive their share of your estate, they will also be expected to plan and pay for your funeral if you don’t wish to arrange a prepaid funeral plan, so they may need to pay for this upfront before they can access any money from your estate.
You can choose just one executor if you wish. However, we’d advise you to have a back up or replacement executors, in the event that they are unable to act as executor or are unwilling. We’d always suggest choosing one executor but having replacement executors named in your Will.
Life Insurance Policies
If you have a life insurance policy, either private or through your employer you should consider putting these Trust Fund. There are lots of specific advantages of putting your Life Insurance Policies into Trusts. Ask your Will Writer for more information during your appointment.
Under normal circumstances the payout from a life insurance policy will form part of your legal estate, It may therefore be subject to inheritance tax.
By writing a life-insurance policy in trust, the proceeds from the policy can be paid directly to the beneficiaries rather than to your legal estate. This ensures that it will not included when inheritance tax is calculated.
This means the value of your estate may not move above the threshold, depending on your circumstances.
Lasting Power Of Attorney
During your appointment you maybe asked whether you want to consider setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney. LPAs allow your attorneys to deal with your property and financial affairs in the event that you lose mental or physical capacity. LPAs also grant powers to make health and welfare decisions on your behalf. For more information about how Lasting Power of Attorney can help during a crisis, please read our guide to LPAs.
Who would you like to leave your estate to? There are several ways that you can divide your estate. Many people decide to leave their estate to their next of kin or spouse. However, you may want to specify other beneficiaries in the event that your spouse dies before you.
You can split your estate between your spouse and children in equal amounts or specify an amount that you’d like to leave. Additionally, you can leave gifts for friends, family and even charities. Donations to charities are typically exempt from inheritance tax, provided that the charity has a charity number. If you want to leave a donation to a charity you must include the charity’s number.
Please note that you will need to provide full names and addresses of any beneficiaries.
If you have children under 18 when you die, you can specify legal guardians for your children in your Will. Guardians will be legally responsible for your children until they reach 18, so you may want to consider financial arrangements for your children.
For example you may want to leave your estate to your guardians. This will ensure they’re financially secure to raise your children. Alternatively, you may want to consider leaving your estate in Trust funds which can only be accessed once your children reach a certain age.
We’d recommend discussing this with the people you are considering making guardians of your children. Give them time to think about it and get back to you. Once you are all agreed we will ask for names and addresses of all named Guardians.
You may decide to put certain high value assets, like properties or money into trusts. There are different types of trusts which we can discuss with you as each have their own benefits. Choosing the right one will be dependent on your individual circumstances. If making a Trust is right for you, you will need to appoint trustees to manage the trust on behalf of the beneficiaries. Trustees can be the same person you name as your executor.
If you have any other wishes you’ll get the chance to stipulate these in your will. These may include who will look after a pet or funeral arrangements.
It is a good idea to write a list of wishes to accompany your Will. This gives you the opportunity to explain your reasoning behind leaving someone a particular item and your reasons for perhaps excluding someone from your Will. This will help your executor too if someone decides to claim against your estate.
Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers before your appointment. The advantage of using a professional Will Writer is that they can help you to reach a decision that is going to be beneficial to you and your beneficiaries. Use our checklist for making a Will before meeting with a Will writer so that you can prepare ahead of time.
There is a lot to consider when writing a Will. We are here to help and advise you through the process.
Please contact us on 0800 038 0098 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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