Research carried out by the Royal London Mutual Insurance Society shows that 54% of UK adults don’t have a will in place and approximately 5.4 million people are unaware as to how to make a will. However, having a will in place is important to help you formalise your wishes and protect your assets.
Martin Banwell answers common questions about making a will:
What is a will?
A will is a formal document in which a person known as a Testator (the person making the will) appoints Executors to administer his or her estate after their death
and directs how it is to be distributed to the beneficiaries. The Executors ensure your estate is distributed in accordance with your wishes.
Within your will, you are able to decide what happens to your money, property and other possessions after your death. You can also include specific instructions for the Executors to carry out regarding your funeral arrangements and possessions.
Why should I make a will?
Thinking about end of life issues can be an uncomfortable topic, however, planning for the future is beneficial in the long term. Having a will is one of the best ways to manage your affairs and minimise conflict and confusion between family members. Some of the main reasons why is it important to make a will are:
- If you pass away without having a will in place, the law decides what will happen to your money, and other possessions. Under the rules of intestacy, your estate is usually passed on to your next of kin. Your possessions may not be distributed in the way you would wish.
- If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership and you don’t have a will in place, your partner will lose the right to inherit if you pass away. This could cause financial problems for the remaining partner.
- Within your will, you can appoint guardians and make other arrangements to take care of children in the event that both or either parent passes away.
- You can mitigate Care Home Fee losses
- You could save money in Inheritance Tax
- If you have concerns about your children and how they will use the money, or you wish to protect them from losing their benefits or from bankruptcy you can
The step by step process of making a will
- Valuing your estate – Create a list of your assets and debts to estimate how much your estate will be worth.
- Decide how you would like your estate to be distributed – Make a list of your wishes for your entire estate and think about decisions such as appointing guardians for minor children. Obviously, we will dicuss your wishes with you and point out any pitfalls and problems – so if you are not sure what is possible or whether it is a good idea, then please ask us. If you are not sure what to do then we will be able to advise you about your options.
- Decide whether you would like to leave a gift/donation to charity – If you would like to leave a gift for a charity of your choice, you will need to include details such as the charity’s correct name, the registered charity number and their contact details.
- Choose your executors – Think about who you would like to appoint as your executors. Your executors will be responsible for dividing your assets after you pass away. It is advisable to have more than one executor. Whoever it is should be someone or some people that you trust implicitly, if they are unafraid of paperwork then that is helpful but it is more important that they are trustworthy. If you are not sure that anyone you know would be suitable as executors or your wishes are complex then we can be Executors to assist in ensuring that your Will is carried out.
- Draft your will – Instructing a trusted and experienced solicitor, like Hegarty, that specialises in wills, trusts and probate law is the best way to make sure your will is drafted properly and stored safely. We can help ensure peace of mind that your will suits your needs for now and the future. We can also assist you with Inheritance Tax Planning and your family might inherit significantly more from you than if you had not planned ahead. We can also offer advice to plan to protect assets under the terms of your will to ensure that as much as possible passes onto your chosen beneficiaries.
- Sign your will to ensure it is valid – In order to make sure you have a valid will, you will need to sign your will in the presence of independent witnesses.
- Choose where you would like to store your will safely – Once your will has been drafted and signed, it is important to safely store it. If you have instructed us to draft your will, we will be able to store your will confidentially. At Hegarty Solicitors we offer to retain our client’s wills in our strong room as part of our standard will making service and without on-going charges. We also register them on the Certainty Will Register, which is a national register, and records that your will is stored with us. If in the event of your death your executors or next of kin cannot find your will, a search of the Register will show it is stored with this firm.
What is the right age to make a will?
The minimum age to make a legally valid will is 18 years old, although exceptions to the minimum age can be made if you are on active military service. However, many people put off making a will and think it is something to be thought about when they reach their older years. According to a report conducted by WillSuite, the average age a person makes a will is 58.
However, making a will is often dictated, not by age, but by events in our lives. Certain life events, such as buying a house, marriage and having children, drive us to think more about planning for the future. Making a will is an important step in ensuring your loved ones are provided for and your wishes are carried out. Read more about this in our article ‘At what age should I make a will?’.
Requirements for drafting a valid will
To have a valid will, you must meet the following criteria:
- The will must be signed by you in the presence of two witnesses.
- You must have the mental capacity to make the will and understand the impacts of your will.
- It must be your choice to make your will without pressure from other parties.
- You must be 18 years or older to make a will.
Can I update an existing will?
If you have an existing will and you find that your circumstances have significantly changed, your will may need to be updated. Certain life events influence whether you will needs updating for example:
- If you have bought a house since making your will you should update your will to outline who inherits your share of the property.
- If you got married after making your will, the marriage will revoke the will unless there is a specific reference to the marriage within the will. In this instance, you will need to create new wills.
- If you have had a child or grandchild, you may wish to review how your assets are distributed or appoint guardians.
- If you have children that have grown up since you made your will, you may find that your choice of executor may be out of date.
- If you made your will before 2007 then there have been significant changes to the Inheritance Tax regime upon which you should consider taking advice.
How much will it cost?
Making a standard will is not as expensive as you may think. Our standard charge for a single straightforward will is £295+VAT. A small price for ensuring you and your loved ones have peace of mind for the future. For a couple, we discount this to £495 + VAT for both Wills.
Our highly experienced Wills Trusts and Probate team are here to guide you through the process of making your will and to help you understand the best way of protecting your assets. We can ensure that you receive the advice you need based upon your individual circumstances.