Do I need to make a Will?
We get asked this question very often. Understandably, many clients are unsure about what a Will does to improve their situation, or why they need one in the first place. There are many reasons that we propose that our clients write a Will. Remember, nobody knows what their family will look like when they die, or what their finances will look like. What will your children be doing? What will the Inheritance Tax laws look like? Will the family all get along as they do now? Who will have joined the family through marriage, childbirth or adoption? There are so many questions that simply can’t be answered today. The only way to deal with these possibilities is by making a Will.
So what does a Will actually do?
A Will, under the laws of England and Wales, is an expression of what you would like to happen to your estate after your death. It is important to point out that your Will is not “the final say”. There are other factors that dictate what happens to your estate, such as tax law, and inheritance law. But, let’s stick to the basics. In a Will, the “testator” (the person who the Will is written for), firstly declares that this is their final Will and Testament, and revokes any previous Wills. This can be important, as it clears up any misunderstandings about what mum and dad wanted”.
Secondly, in a Will, we appoint the people that we would like to be responsible for carrying out our wishes. These are known as “Executors” and are commonly our spouses, children, or professional executors. It’s always a good idea to appoint a professional alongside the family, as the Probate process which estates go through after death is getting increasingly harder to negotiate. Being an Executor brings legal liability for the estate. It isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly, and making a Will is an opportunity for you to ensure that the right people take on this liability.
We can also appoint Guardians for any children under 18 at the time of our death. This is an often overlooked benefit of the Will, and one reason we recommend even younger clients should instruct a Will. If both you and your spouse were to die before your children become adults, who would you want to oversee their upbringing? It’s a common misconception that godparents, siblings or grandparents automatically become legal guardians. If this happened, wouldn’t you prefer that your wishes were taken into consideration? The only way you can record this is in a Will.
We then move on to what happens with your estate after your death. Your Estate comprises of everything you own, and there are various ways your Will Writer can help with structuring this in the most efficient way. You get to choose who will inherit after your death, and in what order. For example, your spouse could be the main beneficiary, followed by your children. Or your Will Writer may advise that a life interest trust is written, giving your spouse the enjoyment of the property, but passing legal ownership to the children. There can be advantages of taking this course of action, especially if you are looking to ensure that your assets stay within the family. You may even wish to employ more advanced techniques, to cut out any chance of some or all of your estate going to unintended beneficiaries. More of this in another post.
What about Funeral Wishes?
We always suggest that you record your basic funeral plans within the Will. Often these are known by your loved ones, but adding them to your Will removes any conflict, or confusion. You can link these up with a prepaid funeral plan if you wish. This ensures that your family don’t have to worry about the cost of a funeral, and the extra work involved in planning it.
What about Granny’s trinkets?
Again, you can write one or more “bequests” in your Will, to cover sentimental items. You can direct that Granny’s jewellery goes to son number 1, and your artwork goes to granddaughter number 2. This is one of the most common reasons for arguments after your death. People want to remember you, and a distant childhood memory of being promised a certain item may get confused over time. Put a direction in your Will, and remove as much reason for disappointment as possible.
None of us want to think of our families squabbling after our death. For many families, arguments that would never occur during life are suddenly brought on by grief after you’re gone. For other families, the potential for arguments is clearly stronger. For these families, a Will prepared in good time is even more essential.
What if I change my mind?
Your Will is a fluid document. You are recording your wishes as they are right now. They should be reviewed at least every five years, and more often if significant life events take place. Many of our clients have come back to us to make small, or large, amendments to their wishes. This is completely normal. As your family changes, your wishes also change. We are always happy to give advice about what should go in your Will. We love it when our clients leave with peace of mind that if they were to die, their wishes are properly recorded. Contact us on 01422 658008 for an initial discussion about your wishes.