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Have you made yours?
Many people believe they are either too young to write a Will, that it is too expensive, or that they do not have enough money or property to make writing a Will worthwhile.
The reality is that dying without a Will can make what is already a difficult time, a lot harder for your family. You risk depriving your spouse or partner of their home, increasing any potential inheritance tax liability, and leaving your estate in the wrong hands. In addition, if you have a younger family and the worst happens, you not only have the difficulty of dealing with the loss of a parent or parents, but the children can be faced with other problems too. For example, they may have to move house or change school; or they may even be taken into care whilst social services appoint a suitable guardian.
If you have not yet made your Will, now is the time to act; especially if you have children. Do not leave it until tomorrow. Life is uncertain, and ‘tomorrow’ will not come for an unfortunate few of us.
Why make a Will?
The truth is, we can never be certain when our life might come to an end. We could live to a ripe old age, or fate can ‘punch your ticket’ earlier than you might expect through illness, or an accident. It is not a subject that any of us like to dwell on. Nevertheless, it is something that we all need to consider; particularly as we get older, and have partners and/or children who depend on us financially.
PROVIDE PEACE OF MIND
Regardless of when you pass away, it will undoubtedly be a time of great upset for your family; even if your death was not entirely unexpected. By having a Will in place, it will give you and your family the peace of mind and knowledge that your estate, including any property, money and possessions, together with any financial ‘loose ends’ are taken care of after you pass away. This will not only reduce the amount of stress your family might go through, but it will also help to ensure their financial stability after you have gone.
A Will allows you to pre-determine precisely who will benefit from your estate, and at what age. You can even include your funeral / disposal arrangements. All of this will be carried out to the letter by your appointed Executors, Trustees and Guardians (the person(s) you have entrusted to follow the directions in your Will). Where we die ‘intestate’, assets may not pass to those we hold dear. It is worth noting that an un-married partner has no entitlement, and even a spouse is not entitled to everything where a Will is not in place.
Without naming guardians in a Will, it could be said that you are being somewhat remiss in your duty and responsibility as a parent. That may sound harsh, but you need to consider that if you were to die prematurely through an accident or an illness, what would happen to your children? Who would look after them for you? Where would they live? Whilst this might sound dramatic, such situations can and do occur. By carefully naming guardians in your Will, you are able to plan for this eventuality.
There are in fact, many reasons to make a Will. Each of us is unique; with varied objectives and concerns. As a result, each of us will have different motivations when creating a Will. There can be no doubt that each of us should really take the time to get organised, and put pen to paper. If you do not know where to begin, our expert team are here to talk you through the whole process. There are really no excuses to not make your Will today to ensure that your family are protected.
Frequently Asked Questions
We would advise that every person makes a Will during their lifetime. It give you the opportunity to state who you would like to benefit from your estate when you have passed away. You can also appoint executors, guardians and include your funeral wishes.
By making a Will, you are ensuring that your family will be taken care of and making the administration process much simpler.
If you die without a valid Will, you will have died “intestate”. Legislation will then stipulate who takes receipt of your estate. This could result in your spouse, partner or children losing out, and your estate instead passing to people that you would not have chosen.
Things are also more time-consuming and complex when a Will is not in place. This can cause additional stress for your family, at what is already a very difficult time.
Under the Wills Act 1837, in order for a Will to be legally binding it must be:
– made by a person who is 18 years of age or older, and who has their mental capacity;
– in writing; signed by the person making the Will and witnessed by two independent people;
– made of the person’s own volition, without pressure or coercion.
A witness cannot be a beneficiary of the Will, nor married to someone who will benefit. We normally advise that clients use close friends or neighbours as witnesses.
The witnesses are there to confirm that the Will was signed by the testator (the person making the Will), and that they knew what they were doing i.e. they were not under any undue influence or pressure to do so.
“Mirrored” Wills are commonly made by unmarried or married couples. Each person has their own document, but the wishes contained within them will be pretty much identical. For example, a “mirrored” Will may say that a couple want to leave everything to each other first, but then when both of them have passed away, the estate should pass to their children.
This is a term used to describe what assets of yours are left after any gifts, debts, tax funeral costs and other testamentary expenses have been paid.
The remainder of your assets are then distributed to your beneficiaries. This could include: your bank accounts, property and personal possessions.
Your residuary estate does not include things such as jointly owned property or bank accounts. It would also not include pensions or life insurance policies that have been written into trust – you would normally have nominated someone to receive these when you set them up.
You have to be at least 18 years of age to receive any inheritance that you may have been left. Sometimes clients feel that 18 years of age is still too young, and will instead opt for 21 or 25. Where a person is under the age of 18 (or whatever age you have specified), their inheritance would be looked after for them by trustees. The trustees would have the discretion to distribute money to them as and when they see fit. Once the child has attained the age of 18 or older, they will then become responsible for their inheritance and make all the decisions for themselves.
An Executor is someone who deals with the administration of your estate. You will appoint these people in your Will, and they are most likely to be close relatives or friends. For more complicated estates, it is not uncommon for someone to appoint a professional to act as their Executor.
An Executor is responsible for the following:
– Finding your Will;
Locating and valuing your assets;
Paying off any debts that there may be at that time;
Distributing the remainder of your assets (your residuary estate) to your beneficiaries.
A trustee is someone who looks after your property until a given time in the future. For example, where money has been left to a child, and they are unable to inherit until they attain a certain age.
Trustees must act with honesty, and integrity. Their responsibilities include: taking control of trust property, to safeguard such property and to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
A guardian is someone that you appoint to look after your child/children if something happens to you whilst they are under the age of 18.
If you pass away leaving young children, and you have not appointed a guardian, it will then become the role of the courts to find someone suitable to care for them. This could mean that someone other than who you would like is appointed to look after them.
No, but it is a good way of letting your executors what kind of funeral you would like. We would recommend that you discuss your preferences with your family too.