Making a Will
A Will is a document, which comes into effect when you die. In your Will you identify what you want to happen with your property and assets after your death.
In it you appoint individuals, which can include those representing a professional firm such as solicitors or accountants, to be responsible for ensuring your wishes are met. They are known as ‘executors’. The Will needs to give to the executors all the powers they need to ensure your wishes are met. In addition to confirming who inherits your assets, it can minimise the effect of taxation; include express provisions about the disposal of your body; and appoint the people to be responsible for the guardianship of your minor children. Without a Will the intestacy laws are imposed, which effectively leave everything to your next of kin in a fixed order. The intestacy laws can have undesired consequences. They do not provide for cohabitees, stepchildren, friends or charities you may support. If you have no next of kin and do not leave a Will, the whole of your estate will go to the Crown. If you have any questions or need any advice please do not hesitate to contact us on our 24 hour Advice Line 0800 526368 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Style and Content of your Will
Any Will has to identify clearly and correctly the person who is making it. This includes reference to your birth name and any names by which you are known and other names that you hold assets under.
The executors are responsible for identifying the assets and debts, realising any assets to meet any debts and distributing any balance to your chosen beneficiaries. One person can act solely on their own, as an executor but it is usually best to appoint at least two people. Often though there will be a substitute to protect against one of the executors dying or being unable to act. If in your Will you are providing gifts to be managed for the benefit of other people (known as trusts), the same people can continue to act as executors and trustees.
Whoever you choose to appoint as executor they should be asked if they agree and are willing to act before you appoint them. It is possible to appoint a spouse, civil partner, or friend or relative. You can appoint professional persons such as a solicitor or an accountant.
After the executors have been appointed provisions can be made for the appointment of a guardian or guardians for minor children. The guardians appointed would have Parental Responsibility for any minor children and would look after the children on a day-to-day basis.
If you wish to do so, you can include any specific gifts or gifts of money you want to make.
After the gifts have been given and payment of all liabilities such as debts, funeral expenses, any other expenses, and any tax liability are met this is known as the residue of the estate. The gift of the residue is known as the residuary gift. In your Will you need to identify your chosen beneficiaries of the residuary gift. The residuary gift is to ensure that there is no gap in your giving. If there was a gap (i.e. you have assets left over after the provisions of your Will had been carried out, which have not been allocated to anybody living), then the part of the estate that is left over would have to be administered in accordance with the fixed intestacy laws that apply where you have no Will.
It is important to have not only provision for a beneficiary or beneficiaries to receive the residue, but also a substitution in the event that they may have predeceased you.
Substitutionary provisions can apply to gifts too. You can also make gifts to two or more people jointly so that if one or more of them has died, the survivor or survivors would have your gift outright.
A Will should also include a clause which gives the executors/trustees a number of technical and routine provisions they need to administer your estate properly.
Usually the final provision of a Will is the expression of wishes regarding funeral arrangements (if you wish them to be included).
What is involved?
In order to prepare a Will for you, we need to take full details from you about your personal circumstances (for example whether you are currently married/have a civil partner or whether you have been previously married); the nature of your family (for example whether you have any children and if so, whether they are under eighteen); the needs of your family and any other dependants (for example a disabled or vulnerable person, or an elderly relative); and the things you own and their approximate value (for example your home and whether it is owned by you alone or jointly with somebody else and if so, how, approximate values of your savings, other investments, jewellery and pension arrangements). We send you a Will questionnaire for your completion. It is important that you provide as much detail as possible as your Will, will be prepared on the basis of your instructions in the Will questionnaire.
If we have any queries regarding your questionnaire we will telephone or write to you regarding any issues and we will then send your Will to you for your signature with explanatory notes on the terms of that Will and notes regarding the signing of your Will.
There are special rules concerning the signature of Wills and if they are not followed it will not be a valid Will. If therefore you have any queries or wish to discuss any aspects of the rules for signature you should contact us.
Once the Will has been completed, we will prepare a copy for you to keep at home, and will place the original in our deeds safe for safekeeping.
Reviewing and altering your Will
You should periodically review your Will to ensure that your Will still meets with your wishes. You should also review your Will if your personal or financial circumstances change, see some examples below. In any event, we recommend that you review your Will at least every five years.
1) If you marry or enter into a civil partnership after the date of the Will, it will in most cases be automatically revoked and you should consult us again. If you divorce or your civil partnership is dissolved after the date of this Will, in most cases it will still take effect but will apply as if your former spouse or civil partner was not mentioned and you should therefore consult us again to see if other changes need to be made.
2) In the following events, you are advised to mention the same to us in case any alterations become desirable:-
(a) If you change your name, or anyone mentioned in the Will changes theirs.
(b) If an executor dies or becomes unsuitable to act due to age, ill health, etc.
(c) If a beneficiary dies.
(d) If you have specifically
bequeathed any property which you subsequently sell or dispose of.
(e) If you contemplate separation, divorce, or dissolution of civil partnership.
(f) If there is a substantial increase or decrease in your assets which may affect your inheritance tax position.
(g) If you co-habit or have any more children.
2. If you wish at any time to revoke or alter your Will, you should consult us so that the legal formalities can be observed, otherwise your wishes may not take effect. It is not sufficient to alter any copy Will.
Challenges to a Will
Certain relatives and dependents may be entitled to challenge a Will if it does not make reasonable provision for them.
What amounts to reasonable provision is ultimately a matter for the Court. If you ignore them or fail to make adequate provision for them, they may apply to the Court for an Order for your estate to make specified provision for them.
If you are aware of anyone who is reliant upon your financial support, or you have family for whom you do not wish to make provision, you should tell us so that we can explain more fully about the rights that person may have acquired.
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