What do you need to consider when you write a Will? Do you know exactly what to include? Without an accurate and legal Will in place, your wishes may not be reflected when you pass away, so it’s important to check that it’s correct. If you already have a Will, but you haven’t updated it in a while, are you sure that it accurately reflects your current situation?
We’ve pulled together a list of the common things to consider when writing a Will:
1. Check whether your Will is out of date
If you already have a Will, when did you last update it? Ideally, they should be reviewed every three years, but more often if you’ve had a major lifestyle change – particularly getting married or divorced. Lots of people forget to update their Will, and this can cause big problems in the future including needless family disputes.
2. Using a DIY or ‘free’ Will
Your Will is a legal document and needs to be carefully drafted to suit your particular needs. Beware of cheap, online DIY Wills or templates, which can easily be incorrect or miss important points relating to your estate. Always bear in mind that any ambiguous language could also invalidate aspects of your Will. If you die without a valid Will in place, you will have died “intestate” – which would mean that intestacy laws would then determine how your estate is distributed after your death. And that can easily mean that your wealth does not get passed on to the people you would want it to, particularly if you are not married or in a civil partnership.
3. Check whether you have included everything in your Will
This is the trickiest part of writing a Will and the reason why we always recommend speaking to a lawyer. As well as your property, possessions, investments and savings, your pensions should be taken into account. Although your instructions about what should happen to your pension after your death won’t appear in your will, your lawyer and financial planner will need to understand the whole picture when giving you advice. Overseas properties need special treatment so far as your will is concerned, and business interests also need extra consideration, particularly if you are not the only owner.
4. Provisions for a gift should the beneficiary pass away
Sometimes a situation arises where your beneficiary dies before you and, therefore, the gift fails after you pass away because there wasn’t any provision written into the Will to cover this. You need to be really clear in your Will about what you would like to happen to a gift in these circumstances. For example, you might decide that if this were to happen, the gift is passed onto their children or spouse.
5. Appoint trusted Executors and Guardians
When you choose Executors for your Will, often people just name obvious members of the family like siblings or children. However – and this is a common sticking point – sometimes people are just not right for this role due to either living overseas or being incapable of handling the level of responsibility. Being an Executor involves a lot of responsibilities and tasks including paying off debts and any inheritance tax liabilities. Sometimes, people include an additional and objective Executor to help manage the estate after they pass away; this could be a trusted friend, solicitor, or another party. We have a trustee company for that purpose, so we can act as Executors for you if needed. If you have children, then you need to appoint a Guardian to care for them, should the very worst happen and you pass away while they’re still under the age of 18.
6. Your Will must be correctly signed and witnessed
Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest mistakes people make and without the correct people present to both sign and witness your Will, your Will could be completely invalid. A Will is legally binding, so your signature must be witnessed by TWO people – these people must not be named as beneficiaries (and must not be their spouses) and they must be UK citizens over the age of 18.
7. Check whether you wish to exclude anyone from your Will
Sometimes, due to family disputes or long-standing issues, you might decide that you want to exclude someone who has a legal claim to your estate. Usually, this happens in blended families where people have remarried and/or there are multiple children from different partners. If people are not written into the Will, or they have not been excluded, this can lead to disinheritance issues and the wrong people inheriting from your estate. So, if you feel there is even the slightest chance of this happening, you need to ensure this is written into your Will. For more information on this, please read our blog, ‘Could you be disinheriting a family member?’ or speak to our financial planning team for advice.
There are many other factors to consider, but the most important factor of all is making sure you actually HAVE a legal and valid Will. Without a Will in place, your family or friends could be left to face high probate and solicitor fees to organise your money, property and possessions after you die. Some people have even ended up in severe debt because they were unable to pay the deceased’s bills or because money was locked away in a bank account due to the absence of a Will. A Will gives you peace of mind that your estate will go to the right people when you pass away, so always ensure sure that yours is fully up to date.
If you need advice on writing or updating your Will, please get in touch and speak to one of our financial planners. We can help you with the financial planning aspects and recommend a lawyer who can help you put everything into action.