While anything associated with the death of somebody close to you tends to spark doom and gloom, even amongst the most positive of people out there, the financial implications of death need to be addressed so that those left behind know what the deceased person’s wishes were. Making a will also gives those wishes legal standing in society.
A will is, essentially, a legal document that outlines what your wishes are regarding the distribution of your assets and, where appropriate, who you wish to take care of your children. A will also ensures you don’t pay more inheritance tax than you need to.
Because a will is a legal document, it is essential that your will is written to be valid. Any non-valid wills will be ignored and, therefore, it is highly important that your will is a clear expression of your wishes.
If your will is invalid or you do not have a will, the law will decide who gets what of your money, property and possessions.
How do you start making a will?
When it comes to making a will, you have a few options. You can write your will yourself, however, you need to ensure that it is signed both by yourself and two formal witnesses. It should be noted, however, that your witnesses (nor their partners in marriage) can be beneficiaries of your will.
You can also hire a solicitor to help you write your will. This will ensure your will is professionally written. Having legal advice is particularly recommended if your situation is more complex. For example, if you share a property with somebody that you are not married to or if you own property abroad.
Other situations where a solicitor should be hired to help you are: If you own a business, if you have a permanent home outside the UK, if you want to leave your assets to somebody who cannot care for themselves, or if you have many beneficiaries of your will (perhaps you have remarried and have children with another partner, for example).
Some people decide to hire a solicitor when writing a will so that they have professional legal advice even if they are not in a complex situation. Ultimately, hiring a solicitor ensures your will is legally binding and put together properly.
Writing a will
Making a will should not be a task to be taken lightly and, ultimately, you should spend time making sure you are happy with it. When writing your will, you will need to outline: Who you would like to look after your children (if they are under 18), who you would like to be beneficiaries of your will (i.e. who will inherit your assets), who will be the executor of your will and what should happen if your beneficiaries die before you.
What is a will executor?
The executor of a will is the person who takes care of probate and is, ultimately, in charge of dealing with your finances once you’ve passed away.
It is generally advised that you choose somebody reliable and trustworthy to be the executor of your will. It is also suggested that you have two executors, ideally both a solicitor and a family member.
How do you know your will is legal?
In order to ensure your will is legal, you must be over 18 at the time of writing it and be sure you are writing in sound mind.
In addition, the will must be written and completed on a voluntary basis.
Finally, the will must be signed by two formal witness (who are both over 18 and not beneficiaries of the will) in your presence. You must also sign the will in their presence.
Where to keep your will
Once you have written a will that is legally binding, it is essential that your will is safely stored. You can store your will with your solicitor, your bank or a company that offers the storage of wills (these companies can be found online). You can also look into storing your will with the London Probate Service.
What to do if you’d like to make changes to, or update, your will
Once your will has been signed and witnessed you can’t make changes to it, however, you can make a codicil (which is the name for an official change to your will).
There is no limit to how many codicils you can make on your will, however, each time the codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same way as the original version of your will.
It is recommended to review your will every 5 years. A will should particularly be reviewed after significant life changes. These include: Getting married, getting separated or divorced, having children or moving to a new house. The death of the executor named in your will would also mean you need to review your will.
When to make a new will
You may choose to make a new will if you are making major changes to your existing one. Your new will cancel your older will and our old one should be burned, shredded or torn up.
Do’s and Don’ts when writing your will
- Make a will. It sounds glaringly obvious, however, there are so many people who decide not to take the time to write a will, however, making a will ensure your assets are passed on where you’d like them to be after your death.
- Choose a responsible and trustworthy person to be your executor.
- Appoint guardians for your children if they are under 18.
- Look for the WIQS quality mark when searching for a legal expert to help you with your will.
- Make sure executor knows where to access your will when you have died.
- Assume that because you’re married, your partner will get everything.
- Risk leaving your children with nothing.
- Forget to update your will.
- Have your spouse as your only executor.
- Assume that your family will sort things out without you writing a will.
Making your decision about writing your will
Essentially, it is up to you how you decide to write your will. The three basic options are:
- Hire a Solicitor
- Hire a will writer
- DIY wills
The option that would give you most peace of mind here is hiring a quality-marked solicitor to write and store your will, so that you can be confident it is valid and put into practice when you die. While hiring a solicitor means your will is effective, it can be expensive.
Hiring a will writer is cheaper than a solicitor and can provide you with an element of expertise and guidance when making your will. Although, will writers won’t be quality-marked and are unlikely to be qualified.
DIY wills are essentially templates that you can download from the internet that will provide you with the structure for writing your will.
The issue with DIY wills is that there is a much higher risk of having an invalid will, although a DIY will is far cheaper than having your will written by a solicitor.
More information from Quick Move Now
If you would like to find out more about writing a will and how property can be affected by wills and the probate process, please contact Quick Move Now and we are more than happy to discuss any expertise we have.