Making a will is a fundamental part of any financial or estate planning. By making a will it is possible to ensure that an estate passes in accordance with wishes upon a person’s death rather than the rules of intestacy which would apply if they were to die without making a will.
A carefully drafted will can also achieve the following:
- Protect and preserve assets for the benefit of a spouse, children and future generations, often through the use of trusts
- Provide for a spouse from a second or further marriage but protect assets for the benefit of children from an earlier marriage
- Maximise inheritance tax reliefs which may be available on the value of a business or agricultural property
In producing wills we take time to discuss family background, details of assets, aims and how best to achieve them. This ensures that a will is prepared in accordance with specific needs.
The majority of wills that are prepared are charged on a fixed fee basis which provides the reassurance of knowing in advance what the cost is.
The STEP will writing code is adhered to. To view the code click here.
Is a Will really necessary?
If you die without leaving a Will there are a fixed set of rules called the intestacy rules which will dictate who inherits your assets on your death. Making a Will gives you control over what happens to your assets after you die and gives you peace of mind in knowing that you have made provision for those you would want to benefit after your death.
The intestacy rules only provide for certain family members and can be particularly disastrous for unmarried couples and people in second marriages with stepchildren.
The intestacy rules make no provision at all for unmarried partners and so, on the death of one partner, this can create serious financial problems for the remaining partner.
Estranged family members can also benefit under these rules which is unlikely to be in accordance with your wishes.
What is in a Will?
A Will is a legal document that states who will inherit your assets on your death. It will contain your wishes as to who your beneficiaries are to be and what they are to receive.
It will also appoint an executor or executors who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes on your death. A Will can also appoint a guardian for any minor children.
It can also contain your wishes for any personal items and details of your funeral wishes.
It is possible to set up a trust in your Will to take effect on your death, for example for the benefit of a beneficiary who has a disability and/or who is in receipt of state benefits. There can be many reasons why it may be beneficial to provide for your loved ones via a trust and professional advice should be taken from a solicitor about this.
Who should I appoint as executor of my Will?
Executors are responsible for ensuring that your wishes as set out in your Will are carried out on your death and for collecting in your assets, paying any debts, dealing with all paperwork, paying any taxes due and any other costs before making the payments to the beneficiaries. Care should therefore be taken to appoint somebody who is responsible and organised.
It is possible to appoint more than one executor and being a beneficiary in the Will does not preclude somebody from being named as an executor.
We would recommend that you check in advance with those you have in mind that they are willing to be appointed as an executor to help avoid any issues at a later stage.
Do I need to use a solicitor to make my Will?
We would recommend that you use a solicitor when making a Will as it is very easy to make mistakes which can cause problems after your death. Sorting out any misunderstandings and disputes after your death can result in litigation and expensive legal costs.
The cost of a Will drawn up by a solicitor will depend on the complexity of your needs but at Boyes Turner we always try to give a fixed quote at the outset for Wills so that you know in advance how much you will be charged.
Can I make changes to my Will after I have signed it?
Changes can be made to an existing Will either by executing a new Will or by signing a Codicil to alter the existing one. Whether or not a Codicil is possible will depend on the extent of the changes to be made.
An existing Will should never be annotated with any alterations you wish to make.
We recommend that you review your Will regularly to ensure that it is up-to-date with your current circumstances and wishes.
Where will my Will be stored?
If we have prepared a Will for you, we will store it for you free of charge in our fireproof strongroom. We will also ensure you have a signed copy for your own records.
Can a Will be changed after a death?
It is possible for a beneficiary to enter into a “Deed of Variation” after the testator’s death to vary the terms of the Will.
This can only be done if the beneficiary is aged 18 or over and has the mental capacity to do so.
Care must be taken when entering into a Deed of Variation to ensure that it is done as tax efficiently as possible.
Deeds of Variation can be useful tools under which beneficiaries pass funds down to the next generation to help with their own inheritance tax planning but care needs to be taken where a beneficiary is attempting to divert funds away from themselves due to their own personal circumstances, for example because they are in receipt of state benefits and wish to preserve those benefits.
How is a Will executed?
A Will must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses who must then also sign the Will in the presence of the person making it.
Nothing should be attached to an original Will, such as a paperclip, and it is not necessary for the witnesses to be aware of the contents of the Will – just that they are acting as witnesses to it.
What can make a Will invalid?
For a Will to be valid, it needs to be made by somebody who is aged 18 or over and it must be made voluntarily by them without any pressure from another party forcing them to enter into it.
A person must also be of sound mind when making a Will and the execution requirements referred to above must be adhered to. If there are doubts over a person’s capacity to make a Will it may be necessary for a medical report to be obtained.
What if I get married or divorced after making a Will?
Getting married after you have signed a Will will usually invalidate it, even if the Will makes provision for your new spouse. You can prevent this by making sure that your will is made in expectation of marriage to your spouse when it is signed.
A new Will or Codicil may need to be signed to ensure that you do not die intestate.
A Will does not become void or invalid if you get divorced but your former spouse will be treated for inheritance purposes as if they had died on the date of the decree absolute and so any gift made to them in the Will will fail and your Will should therefore be reviewed to see who will inherit in their place.