What do you need to consider when making a will?
Surprisingly, over half of adults in the UK haven’t made a will. Yet, as life decisions go, drawing up a legally-binding document that details what you want to happen to your estate after death is extremely important, particularly for those you leave behind. Dying without a will (intestate) could mean your loved ones are left with a headache when it comes to sorting out your affairs. From protecting unmarried partners and appointing guardians for children, to leaving money to friends or charities, making a will ensures your wishes will be honoured and your loved ones safeguarded.
Gathering information and making decisions
Before you can decide what you want to happen to your estate, you need to identify what your assets are. That includes any property, possessions, savings, businesses, investments or insurance policies you may have. As well as what you own, you also need to identify any debts (like loans and mortgages, for example) that would need to be paid off in the event of your death.
Once you’ve worked out what you your estate entails, it’s time to think about how you want to distribute your assets. Whether you have a sole beneficiary in mind, want selected items to go to certain people or you want to spread your wealth between a mixture of family, friends and charities, you need to be clear about who gets what.
You also need to consider who you would like to be the executor/s of your will. This could be a relative or a friend that you trust to take care of your affairs fairly and efficiently or, if you prefer, you could appoint a solicitor to take care of these duties. The role of executor can have its challenges, so choose wisely, especially if you’re considering appointing a close relative or friend who may struggle to deal with the necessary administration at such a difficult time.
Writing your will
There are a number of options when it comes to writing your will. Some people choose to take the DIY route, while others opt for a professional to do the job for them.
Writing your will yourself or buying a DIY will kit might seem like an attractive option in terms of cost, but has its risks, particularly if your affairs aren’t straightforward. Any ambiguous wording could result in your wishes being ignored or confused. In addition, failing to sign or witness the document correctly could mean that the will is deemed invalid.
If you want to consult with a professional when drafting your will, there are a few possibilities to consider. Many banks and charities offer will-writing services and there are also professional will writing companies who can draw up documents for you. However, you need to do your research well or you could find yourself dealing with high bank charges or appointing an unregulated will writer.
Using a reputable law firm, particularly one who specialises in wills and probate, it often the most comprehensive option. A good solicitor will help you identify what your complete estate entails, understand your options for distributing your assets and advise you on your Inheritance Tax liabilities. They’ll also ensure that all the paperwork is legally sound, from setting out clear expressions of your wishes to making sure the will is signed and witnessed correctly.
The importance of getting it right
With the number of people prepared to contest a will on the increase, drafting a legally sound document is your best chance of ensuring that your estate is distributed exactly as you wish. If you don’t have a will, or your old will is out-of-date, your loved ones might not inherit what you, and they, assume they will get. Although none of us want to think about ourselves or a loved one passing away, making sensible decisions now could save a lot of heartache when the time comes.
If you’d like to talk to a solicitor about writing or updating your will, contact our wills and probate specialists today.
You can also read our Rowberry Morris Wills and Probate Guide.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.