Our team of Wills and Probate solicitors have collated together seven essential things to consider when you’re making a Will.
Whilst thinking about making a Will isn’t an enjoyable task, it is necessary to ensure loved ones and name beneficiaries get the most out of your estate.
1. Decide who your executor is
The executor of your Will is the person responsible for making sure the wishes you put in your Will are followed. This decision is a significant one as an executor is responsible for a number of important jobs:
- Finding where your original will is stored
- Notifying banks and other relevant companies that the person in question has died
- Setting up an executors account for paying in funds and paying ongoing bills and estate liabilities
- Providing the Probate Registry with the necessary information they require including preparing an Inland Revenue account
- Looking after and insuring any properties in the estate until they are sold or transferred
- Paying the liabilities of the estate
- Paying any Inheritance Tax or Income Tax due on the estate
- Distributing personal belongings of the deceased
- Distributing the assets of the estate in accordance with the Will
Often an executor will be the spouse but it is important to consider a replacement in the event that they die before you.
2. Decide who will benefit from your Will
There are some key pieces of information that need to be included in your Will, including who will benefit from your estate. By naming beneficiaries and stating clearly what each of them will stand to inherit will help ensure your wishes are carried out in the event of your death.
People, as well as organisations, can be named as beneficiaries. Here’s a list of examples to help you create your own list:
- Family members including children, grandchildren and immediate family
- Spouses, civil partners, boyfriends or girlfriends
- A chosen charity
As well as naming people you want to benefit from your Will there are a few other key areas to think about, namely:
- Who will be responsible for any children under the age of 18
- What happens if your original beneficiaries die before you
3. Consider areas of potential complication
In some cases, executing a Will can be fairly straightforward. However, there are circumstances that can make it a little more complex. For example, if you share a property with someone who is not your husband, wife or civil partner it’s important to consider the right they hold to the property. Similarly, if you have someone you want to leave money to that isn’t able to care for themselves you need to consider how money will be distributed from the estate to them in the event of your death.
Other examples include;
- You have several family members who may make a claim on your estate, such as a second spouse or children from another marriage
- Your permanent home is outside the UK
- You have property overseas
- You have a business
All of these areas are what add up to make your Will unique to you. Considering how these will be impacted in the event of your death and should be considered alongside a team of professional Wills and probate solicitors to ensure the best outcome is reached for everyone involved.
4. Be mindful of Inheritance Tax
Inheritance Tax is a tax on the estate (the property, money and possessions) of someone who’s died.
Depending on the size of your estate, you need to be mindful of how much you might need to pay in Inheritance Tax. For example, if your estate is worth under £325,000 and/or you leave everything to a spouse, civil partner, charity you don’t need to pay any Inheritance Tax. However, Inheritance Tax is often part of the probate process, so it’s important to speak to a legal professional to ensure you leave the most tax-efficient estate possible to your loved ones.
5. Make sure your will is legal
In order for your Will to meet the requirements for it to be considered a legal document you need to ensure it meets the following criteria:
- The testator which is the person writing the Will is 18 or over
- It is being made voluntarily and not under duress
- The person making the Will understands what they are doing and the nature and effect of the document
- The Will is in writing and not just a verbal agreement and is signed by you in the presence of two independent witnesses who are both over 18. You must ensure it has been signed by your two witnesses, in your presence.
Often, Wills are contested when any of these criteria come into question. To ensure you are meeting the legal requirements, carefully go through the above list or speak to a professional.
6. Decide where to store your Will
Once you’ve gone to the effort of creating your Will, it’s important to consider where to store it. Often, it’s helpful to keep it in your home in a safe area you can easily access it, but it’s also worth considering storing it perhaps with your bank or solicitor. Many firms, like Morecrofts, can store your Will at no additional charge.
7. Keep it updated and review every five years, or whenever you want to make a change
A Will is a document that is subject to change. Whenever you make a change you need to ensure that every area of it is still compliant with the law and that it still accurately reflects your wishes. It’s good practice to review it every five years and make sure all the right people are named and that the estate is accurately reflected in the contents of the Will. You can update your will whenever you like, provided you are mentally capable of doing so.