• Tuesday 6 August 2019

    Top Tips For Creating your Last Will & Testament

    Writing a will is one of the most important tasks you will undertake in your planning for the future. Making a will means your get to decide what happens to your property, possessions and money after your death. You will need to make it in a certain way though to ensure that it is legally valid and isn’t declared null and void after your death, so getting it right is really important.

    Before you set about writing your will, make sure you know these top tips for getting your will written the right way. 

    1. Get the Help of a Professional

    If you are of the view that all a will consists of is a set of instructions about which of your items of property should go to whom, then it’s time to do some more research, or take your will writing requirements to a professional, because there’s a lot more to it than that. Whilst a will does list your wishes on who gets what, that’s only a part of what it does. 

    There are many requirements a will must comply with in order to be declared legally valid in a probate court. The legal terminology, legislative requirements and tax rules can be hard to understand if you’re not an experienced professional though so whilst you may want to save money and write your will yourself, it’s not always advisable in every circumstance. There are some good websites that have clear instructions and a free will template  you can use to guide you, but if you are not confident you know what you’re doing, or you have anything other than a ‘traditional’ family (married, with children only from that marriage) or very detailed estate arrangements, then it’s always best to seek the help of a professional will writer, or a solicitor. There are plenty of services to choose from and the costs may not be as high as you think, some starting from as little as £20.

    2. Make a comprehensive list of all of your assets

    Don’t wait until you start writing your will to think about your property and possessions. Before you sit down to draw up the will, make a list of all your assets. Assets simply means anything that you own. That includes property, land, cars, furniture, bank accounts, investments, insurance and all of your worldly possessions. Jointly, all of your assets together make up your estate. If you fail to mention anything in your will that is an asset, it becomes part of your ‘residual estate’  which simply means all those items not individually designated to a person named in your will. As part of making your will, you should be advised to name a beneficiary (person who receives an inheritance from you) for your residual estate. 

    It is a misconception that only items that have some cash value can be included as an asset. Any item, whether it has cash value or none at all, just sentimental value, should be included in your will. There may be a book, letter, or piece of costume jewelry that has almost no cash value at all, but is precious to you and would be gratefully received by someone after your death. There are some things that cannot be included as assets in a will however. Joint accounts cannot be included as an asset as they are automatically passed on to the other person named on the account by law, and insurance policies become redundant unless you have nominated your estate as a beneficiary. Similarly, your superannuation cannot be included as a part of your will.

    3. Give careful thought in advance to who you will choose as your guardian and executor 

    Those who have young children should use their will to name a legal guardian for them, in the event that they become parent less before their 18th birthday. Without this legal protection, if something were to happen to you and their other parent, they would become wards of the state and it would be left to the courts to decide who should take care of them until they reach adulthood. So, before you sit down to write your will, make sure you have given careful thought to who should fill this important role. 

    Another role it is important to get right is that of the executor of your will. All wills must name an executor; this is the person whose job it is to ensure that your estate is taken care of after your death and that all your wishes are carried out just as your have laid out in your will. An executor is different from a solicitor, although you can appoint a solicitor to take on this role for you. However, it is normally fulfilled by a close relative or friend, and usually someone who is also named as a beneficiary in your will as this gives the person an extra incentive to see the job through to the end in the way you wished. 

    In the case of both of these roles, it’s important to speak to those you wish to name, in advance, and make sure they understand the responsibilities of the role and are prepared to take it on.

    4. Consider speaking to your beneficiaries so they know what to expect

    Usually, the primary purpose of writing a will is that you want to transfer your assets to the people who have some importance in your life. People who benefit from your will are known as beneficiaries. Family members such as your spouse or partner, children and siblings are the ones usually designated, but that’s not always the case. It is entirely your choice who you pick to receive an inheritance.

    Sometimes, people’s choice of beneficiaries can cause surprise to family members at the time the will is read. If there are some unexpected decisions in the will, or information that could cause your family distress, then it is advisable where possible to prepare your loved ones for this when you are making your will. Surprises can lead to resentment and to people challenging the will if they do not understand your reasoning, or feel that the inheritance arrangements are unfair on them. To avoid challenges which could tie your beneficiaries up in court for years, and cause your loved ones additional distress and expense after your death, make your wishes clear in your will and speak to those affected about what you have decided.

    Writing a will is very important. It allows you to make your wishes known on how you would like your property distributed after your death, and gives your loved ones the assurance that they will be provided for after you have gone. It ensures your minor children will be looked after by someone you know and trust should anything happen to you, and stops legal arguments about who should inherit from your estate. It can also save your loved ones from paying inheritance tax too. But a will must be written correctly for it to be accepted as a valid legal document after your death, and it is therefore very important to ensure you understand the process for writing a will and when to enlist the help of a professional if you are planning to write it yourself. 

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