Are you among the 60%* of Britons who don’t have a will? There are many ‘good’ reasons for not making one – being too young, healthy, poor, busy or just too daunted.
Whatever the excuse, it pays to know that having a will in place is the only way to ensure that after you die your savings and possessions (whether these are substantial or not) will go to the people and causes that you truly care about.
Dying without leaving a will is called being ‘intestate’. Anything you leave (your ‘estate’) will be divided between your nearest living relatives – spouse/civil partner, children, parents and siblings in that order.
It’s a common mistake to think that ‘it will be sorted out once I’m gone’. It will be – eventually – but not without plunging loved ones into dispute and uncertainty at a highly emotional time. Fame and fortune offers no protection either. Singer Amy Winehouse’s assets reverted to her parents while Prince’s $44m fortune was divided between his six siblings following a court dispute.
Wills do not necessarily have to be prepared by a solicitor – do-it-yourself proforma wills are easily available – but life and family circumstances can be extremely complicated. A trained and experienced professional will steer you through any potential legal minefields, ensuring that your will really does reflect your wishes.
You’ll definitely need advice if, for example, you share a property with someone other than a spouse or civil partner, you are part of a co-habiting couple, live abroad or have a question mark over your mental capacity thanks to illnesses such as dementia.
Helping your solicitor to help you
To prepare your will, your solicitor needs the following details:
- A list of your assets (property, possessions, savings, pensions and insurance policies), plus individual items of sentimental value. It’s always a good idea to keep monetary and other assets (e.g. property, jewellery, antiques) valued regularly.
- A list of debts (what you owe), including mortgages, credit card balances, loans or bank overdrafts.
- Full names and contact details of beneficiaries (recipients of your assets) and your wishes as to who will receive which items. Do include registered numbers of any charities.
- Potential arrangements for children under 18. Who will look after them? Will they have to move schools?
- Names and details of executors – the administrator (s) of your estate. This could be your solicitor (check out their charges beforehand) but if you prefer to appoint an individual(s), be aware that it’s a responsible job and you must be confident of their integrity and ability/willingness to carry out your wishes.
Other issues to discuss with your solicitor include:
- Potential inheritance tax liability, although you may have already consulted an independent financial adviser/tax expert or visited https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax for more information.
- Setting up a trust to deal with complicated family arrangements, including dependents.
- Signing and witnessing the will. To be valid, it must be signed by you in the presence of two unrelated people aged 18+ who are not beneficiaries, and they must countersign it in your presence.
- Storing your will. This can be kept safely at home, or with a bank or solicitor – we provide a free storage service for wills that we prepare – and don’t forget to tell your executor(s)!
Keep your will updated
Amend your will after major life-events, such as getting married or divorced, the birth of a new child/grandchild or the death of a beneficiary or executor. Marriage and civil partnership usually render an existing will invalid while divorce prevents an ex-spouse/civil partner from inheriting, even if they are beneficiaries, and there may be problems if they are executors.
To amend your will you must make an official change (a ‘codicil’) that is properly signed and witnessed. For bigger changes, destroy the old will and start afresh.
At Pishon Gold, we can help with any aspect of making a will, which will be totally tailored to your requirements. Our charges start at just £150 plus VAT for a basic will. If you’d like to talk to us, please click here.