Making a Will gives you control over how your estate will be managed after your death. Knowing how to make a Will ensures your estate gets passed to the right people and there are no disinheritance issues. Your personal wishes can be expressed and carried out by the Executors, along with your preferred type of funeral. There are lots of important reasons why you should have a Will, which include how your children and pets will be cared for.
What do you need to know about making a Will?
Before you write a Will, you will need to know the net value of your estate and all the assets, so you have a clear understanding of what you own. Your solicitor will review your estate and they will advise you on whether a Trust could also be useful to control certain assets. If you leave 10% of your net estate value to a registered charity, you could qualify for reduced inheritance tax.
Next, you need to choose your Executor(s); these should be people you can trust to manage your estate after your death, and these are usually friends or family members. You can have more than one, and if you’re unsure or there are family issues, you can always appoint a solicitor as an Executor. Their role is to administer the estate, pay off any debts and taxes, and to distribute the assets to the Beneficiaries.
The Beneficiaries are the people or organisations, such as charities, you choose to inherit from your estate. Your assets make up your estate and include your property, money - savings, stocks and shares - and possessions - cars, jewellery, artwork, and so on. Insurance policies need to be included, but your pension income will be decided by your pensions provider. You may also have digital assets, such as Bitcoin or an iTunes library.
You would then write a 'letter of wishes', which is a document that goes with your Will. Unlike your Will, this letter is not legally binding, but it gives you the chance to state your wishes and to explain your reasoning. It also provides guidance to your Executors or Trustees involved with the administration of your estate after your death.
What happens if you don’t make a Will?
If you were to die without a valid Will, this is known as dying ‘intestate’ and your estate would be shared out according to the rules of intestacy. In England and Wales these rules are set out in the Inheritance and Trustees’ Power Act (2014).
Put simply, a spouse or civil partner would keep all assets (and property) up to a value of £270,000. Personal possessions would also be kept regardless of their value. The remainder of the estate would then be halved between the partner and the children (divided equally).
There are various rules relating to how the children of unmarried couples would inherit, and what happens if you are unmarried and do not have children. If you have remarried and are part of a blended family, things can become complicated, as the new spouse would stand to inherit. Getting a Will in place is essential because without one, your preferred loved ones including your children may not inherit from you, and the wrong people might instead.
Could someone contest a Will?
Sadly there are occasions when family members fall out, either before or after someone has died, and a Will is contested. There are many situations where this can happen, for example, estranged family members making a claim on a late parent or grandparent’s estate.
There needs to be a sound reason for someone to contest a Will, and usually this is due to someone arguing that it’s invalid. If the Will hasn’t been written correctly, there have been cases where a Will has been overturned after Probate has ended. On rare occasions, a Will has been contested after an estate had been distributed, but this is highly complicated. It can be difficult to recover assets from the Beneficiaries and the money might have been spent.
How do you write a valid Will?
Anyone can say they’ve written a Will, and there are plenty of online websites that offer cheap or even free Wills. But in the long run, the cost will be high if the Will is deemed as invalid. If you want your Will to be legally valid, you should always use a solicitor. A Will must be in writing, signed by you, and witnessed by two independent people.
Our specialist Wills, Trusts and Probate solicitors will explain the process and can write your Will (including Mirror Wills for couples) according to your wishes. We will include your preferred people to look after any children aged under 18 years and any pets. We will also ask you about any business interests you may have, so we can help you put measures in place before you pass away.
If you need advice on Wills, Trusts or managing your estate, please get in touch or email: firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a face-to-face or telephone appointment.