WHAT ARE THE KEY STAGES OF MAKING A WILL?
Having spoken to alot of families at what is an emotional time in their life, I thought it would be helpful to cover the basic things you should think about when approaching your Will.
Many people do not consider making a will a priority as they are often considered something to address later on in life. Research carried out by Royal London, YouGov, IRN Research and Orchard revealed that 5.4 million adults do not know where to begin with writing a will, so here is our simple guide which we hope will make the prospect less daunting.
5.4 million adults do not know where to begin with writing a willRoyal London, YouGov, IRN Research and Orchard
We spoke briefly with a professional solicitor to get some basic advice and steps you should consider if you, like a lot of families we have spoken to, haven’t tackled the subject of your Will. I really hope it helps.
- Decide whether you will need professional advice
Consider whether you only wish to make a simple will. A simple will can be produced alone, with an online will-maker platform or a kit purchased from providers such as the Post Office. If your wishes and assets are more complex or you require specialist tax advice then it is always advisable to seek the advice of a qualified professional such as a solicitor. Seek recommendations from friends and relatives or check online reviews before choosing an advisor
- List your assets
Whether you are producing your will alone or with the help of a solicitor you should begin by listing all of your assets. Common assets to consider are:
- Tangible assets
- Property that you may own as an individual or through a company, including residential or commercial property and any vehicles.
- Valuable belongings: perhaps you have some family heirlooms that you would like to specifically pass on to the next generation, or you have some particularly precious belongings such as jewelry or antiques. It is possible to bequeath specific items in your will, so be guided by your will kit or professional in doing so.
- Pets: although they are irreplaceable members of the family for many, legally your beloved pets are considered to be property. This does however enable you to specifically name someone in your will that you trust to continue to look after your pet after you pass away.
- Intangible assets such as bank accounts, ISAs, stocks and shares, pensions, bonds and life insurance policies.
- Decide who will act as your Executor(s)
An ‘Executor’ is someone who will carry out your final wishes and legally administer your estate after you have died. You can have more than one Executor – in fact it is advisable to name several in case they pass away or cannot be located after you have drafted your will. Acting as an Executor can usually be a complex task that comes at a time of grief, so it is advisable to discuss the appointment with the individual(s) you would like to appoint before finalising your will. Whoever you appoint will need to be organised and trustworthy. For this reason, many choose to appoint their spouse or close relatives.
- Choose who you wish to benefit under your will
A ‘Beneficiary’ is an individual or organisation that you choose to receive some or all of your assets. Although Beneficiaries are commonly spouses or close family members, you do not need to be related to someone to leave an asset to them in your will. You can also choose to leave all or some of your assets to a charity, and many charities offer a free will writing service if you are willing to do so.
If you are not seeking professional advice then it is important to be very clear with who you wish to benefit when drafting your will, as it will be administered at an emotionally charged time for all involved. Cases of wills being contested through the court system are sharply on the rise, so consider whether you should disclose to your Beneficiaries, if more than one, who is getting which assets.
- Consider any children you may have
For those that have children under the age of eighteen it is possible to appoint a guardian within your will. Whoever you appoint will have parental responsibility until your child turns eighteen should you and their other parent pass away at the same time. Parental responsibility includes making decisions about their health, schooling and where, and with whom, they will live.
As when naming an Executor, it is wise to name more than one guardian in case they pass away or cannot be located after your will is finalised.
- State any specific wishes you have for your funeral arrangements
Although a recent Law Commission report recommended they be made so, under current UK law funeral wishes expressed in a will are not legally binding. The Executor(s) that you appoint in your will have ownership of your body and are technically regarded as the decision makers with regard to funeral arrangements.
However, it is usually the close family and friends of the deceased who make these decisions and it is important that any specific wishes are conveyed to them. What tends to be advised is that in the main body of the will a simple preference for cremation or burial is specified, and any more detailed funeral arrangements be set out in a separate ‘letter of wishes’ addressed to your Executors or family members, or better still conveyed to these individuals in person before you pass away.
- Sign and date your will in the presence of witnesses
Once you have produced your will it will need to be signed by you as testator in the presence of two witnesses, who will need to write their full name and address underneath their signatures. The witnesses cannot be related to you or be an Executor or Beneficiary under your will.
Ensure that you date the document on the day that it is signed. If a professional is assisting you in drafting the will they will usually witness the document for no additional fee.
- Consider how and where to store your will
If a professional has produced the will for you then enquire about any storage services they offer. If you have drafted your will yourself then consider storing it in a fireproof safe or at a bank in a safe deposit box to prevent it being misplaced or damaged.
It is important to tell your Executor(s) and any close friends or relatives where your will is stored so that it can be easily located once you pass away.
- Update your will if you have a change in circumstances
As life changes and evolves as you age it is generally considered that a will should be updated every five years or with every significant life event, such as:
- Buying a house;
- Getting married or entering a civil partnership;
- Getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership;
- Having children or grandchildren;
- Moving countries; or
- One of your Executors or Beneficiaries pass away.
Around 54% of adults in the UK do not have a will. If someone passes away without a will then they are referred to as dying ‘intestate’. Although assets usually pass to the next of kin, the process of dealing with an estate when the deceased is intestate is complicated and involved, which often proves difficult for the next of kin at an already challenging time of grief. Consider making a will today to protect and provide for those people and causes you care most about.