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WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO MAKE A WILL
Our Will Writing Service
If you are in the Bedfordshire area, we are also able to provide Will Writing services from our Head Office in central Bedford.
How much does making a Will cost?
Why is it important to make a Will?
A Will reflects your decisions with regard to what happens to your assets – money, property and possessions – when you die. (There is no ‘if’.) Yet two thirds of us don’t have one.
There are some compelling reasons for making a Will, not least because to ‘die intestate’ (which means to die without leaving a Will) can not only leave chaos behind you but foolishly create a situation in which those you love – and maybe some you do not love – are in conflict.
But importantly you can avoid your beneficiaries paying some, most or all the inheritance that they would otherwise pay if you leave a Will. And that means you preserve more of the inheritance rather than allow HMRC to get their hands on it.
Although it’s possible to write a Will yourself, the British government advises people in no uncertain terms to seek help if their will wouldn’t be straightforward. And, actually, there are all sorts of reasons – and events that might occur between a Will being written and it being acted on – why what seemed to be a simple will turns out to be inadequate when it comes to coping with the changed circumstances.
What are some important considerations when you’re making a Will?
When it comes to making your Will, there are some important things to think about. You will need to decide who will be your Executors, the Guardians of your minor children and, of course, who is to receive which part of your Estate. Below, we go through some of the key person(s) named within a Will.
What is the role of your Executors?
Executors have the vital role of administering your Estate after your death. This involves quite a range of duties, including writing to all organisations who held your assets or to whom you owed liabilities. In most cases, it means obtaining a Grant of Probate, collecting in those assets, paying off any taxed owed and, finally, distribution the Estate to the beneficiaries. There are many potential pitfalls involved in acting as Executors and, as Executors are personally liable, most clients prefer to have Professional Executors appointed.
Are Trusts Required?
Goodwills are able to advise on a wide range of Trusts, which can do things such as protect your Estate against care home fees, protect against remarriage or save large amounts of inheritance tax. We can also set up Trusts to ensure that minor children are looked after responsibly by people you trust (your ‘Trustees)’. For more in depth information on the types of Trusts that we advise on, get in touch or take a look here.
Who should you appoint as your Guardians?
Almost all clients who have minor children wish to appoint Guardians to act should they (or, in the case of a couple, both they and their partner) pass away. We include Guardianship provisions within our Wills for no extra cost.
Gifts and Legacies
The Residuary Estate
Your Residuary Estate is what’s left over once all debt, administrative expenses and tax has been paid. It is often split between a client’s children but we are able to draft our Wills to leave your residuary Estate however you choose. In some cases, we may even be able to save your children, grandchildren and even later generations considerable amounts of tax by putting your residuary Estate into Trust. For more general information on Trusts, take a look here.
Excluding a Child or other ‘Relevant Beneficiary’ from your Will
- spouse or civil partner of the deceased;
- former spouse or civil partner of the deceased (who has not remarried or entered into another civil partnership;
- a child of the deceased;
- any person who in relation to a marriage or civil partnership in which the deceased was at the time a party, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family (most commonly a step child);
- a person who was living in the same household as the deceased, as ‘husband or wife’ or as a civil partner of the deceased for a period of two years ending immediately on the deceased’s death (most commonly known as a cohabitee);
- any person who immediately before the death of the deceased was being maintained either wholly or partly by the deceased (ie someone financially dependent on the deceased).
If any of the above list of beneficiaries have been excluded from your Will, then we are able to prepare an Exclusion Letter/Clause, which will help to provide a more robust defence against any such claim. More information on Exclusion of Beneficiaries can be found by clicking this link.
Funeral wishes may be as simple as a request to be buried or cremated. They may also request a particular cemetery or place of service. We are able to include such wishes within our Wills for no extra charge. We also provide Funeral Plans, which have become an increasingly popular way of paying for funeral costs prior to death. Funeral Plans can not only reduce costs for your loved ones but can also take away the stress of dealing with the funeral during what is anyway a difficult time.
When the British Government Advises Citizents to go to Solicitors for Advice on Wills
·Share property with anyone who is not legally a spouse (NB ‘common-law’ wives and husbands are not legally recognised)
·Wish to leave assets to dependents who will rely on others for future care
·Will leave behind several family members, and this is especially likely if we’ve remarried, who might fight over assets
·Possess a permanent home overseas
·Have property abroad
·Are in business
But there are other considerations. Like, for example, whether you have step-children, foster-children or adopted children. Unless they are mentioned in a will they are likely to inherit nothing by default.
Execution of your Will (also known as the Attestation process)
It’s never enough to simply write a will. Because you’ll then need to formally sign it in front of appropriate witnesseses. Otherwise it won’t be legally valid. And that means it could well be contested. In some circumstances, after your death, an old will which no longer represents your wishes might then be relied upon – with repercussions that would have you rolling in your grave.
Can you change your Will?
Relationships change. Assets change. And potential beneficiaries might come and go between when a will is written and when it is to be referred to in the process of dispersing assets. Sadly sometimes our children predecease us (they die first). Happily sometimes the circle of family and friends grows (through marriages, births and more). So there might be many reasons for you to wish to update or replace your existing will.
Anyone intending to update their will must make an official alteration called a ‘codicil’. For our clients, we recommend that new Wills are produced and charge no extra to do so if clients are using our Storage and Amendments service.
What if you die leaving no Will? This is known as Intestacy.
If you die without a will, that’s die intestate, the law decides on who gets what. The British Government’s advice is online at www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will. It takes you on a step-through guide to what happens when people die intestate. There are separate trails for residents of England and Wales or Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The system in England and Wales is defined by the Administration of Estates Act (1925). And the pecking-order, when somebody dies without leaving a will, is something like this:
·Any married or civil law partners get the first £250,000 (importantly this is less than the average UK house-price, meaning a home might need to go under the hammer) including possessions
·After that anything else is halved between the aforementioned partner and any kids as soon as they’re over 18
·If there’s no married or civil law partner and no kids then parents are next in line
·Siblings are next
·Grandparents are next
·Uncles and aunts are next
·Any other living blood-relatives could follow
·Her Majesty’s Government – the Crown – is the final resort.
So you have a valid Will? Where do you store your Will in order to keep it safe?
Goodwills shall ensure that your Will is valid and reflects your intentions. But what then?
·Firstly, ensure that the Executor (who has agreed to ensure your will is implemented) knows about the will and where it is going to be kept. Goodwills produce Certificates of Deposit for you to pass to your Executors if you make your Wills with us.
·Secondly, store it in a truly safe place. Goodwills offers a storage service to our clients and also an enhanced Storage and Amendments service.
·Thirdly review your will periodically. Just to remind yourself of it and to ensure that it still represents what you expect to be your final wishes.
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