Creating a Will
If you have specific wishes for your estate upon death, creating a will and keeping it updated ensures that your wishes are respected and executed in a tax-efficient way. Please continue reading for more information on the considerations when making a will.
What Happens if You Don’t Create a Will?
If you don’t create a will, your estate will not necessarily be distributed in the way you intended it to be. For example, if you don’t create a will and are not married nor in a civil partnership, your partner will not inherit your estate. This could create serious financial difficulties for your partner especially if your family becomes entitled to the home you share with your partner. By not creating a will you will also lose out on possible inheritance tax relief and exemptions if the worth of your assets exceeds the inheritance tax threshold.
Do You Need a Solicitor to Make a Will?
A small mistake or ambiguous wording can have a serious implication for your family and loved ones after your death. It could cost in terms of additional legal fees or tax and lead to disputes, all of which will reduce the assets in your estate. Instructing a solicitor to draft a will is, therefore, a relatively inexpensive exercise compared to the value of your estate.
Common errors when creating a will include, but are not limited to, the following.
- Having the will witnessed by a beneficiary.
- Forgetting to include a particular asset within the estate.
- Being unprepared for the possibility of an executor or beneficiary dying before the testator.
- Not having alterations signed and witnessed, leading to invalidity.
- Failing to take into account the effect of marriage, divorce or civil partnership.
We would always recommend consulting a solicitor when creating a will, especially if:
- you share a property with someone to whom you are not married nor joined in a civil partnership;
- you are a carer of a dependent who cannot care for themselves;
- you have been divorced or have children from more than one relationship; or
- you reside outside of the UK or own a property abroad.
Considerations When Making a Will
There are many factors to consider when creating a will:
To avoid the common mistake of forgetting to include a particular asset, it may help to make a list of:
- Your own assets.
- Joint assets.
- Assets in your spouse or partner’s sole name.
On this list, assign each asset to whom you wish to inherit them. For example, if you wish to leave a particular item such as a piece of art, jewellery or furniture to someone specific, make a note with as much detail as possible. For assets such as money, if you would like to give different amounts to family members, you can outline your reasons in a Letter of Wishes which is a helpful method for avoiding potential disagreements or challenges to the will in the future.
If at the time of creating a will, you have children under the age of 18, you will need to consider appointing a guardian in the will. There are several steps to bear in mind:
- Discussion with your spouse or partner regarding your choice of guardian prior to appointing them.
- Discussion with the guardian you wish to appoint.
- Outlining provisions for dependents who are not your children, such as step-children or children from a partner’s previous relationship.
- Deciding and stating the age at which your children should inherit your assets. Under intestacy laws, children inherit at the age of 18, but you may delay this in your will if you wish to choose an age that you deem more appropriate.
An executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes stated in your will and distributing your estate accordingly. Your choice of executor is personal and can provide peace of mind. Typically, two executors are appointed and may include a family member or friend as well as a solicitor. The benefits of choosing a family member or a trusted friend are that they understand your personal wishes and your legacy, while choosing a solicitor means the legal aspects are taken care of by someone who understands the system.
Although creating a will can be a detailed and sometimes emotional process, a solicitor can assist you by explaining the procedure, discussing your aims and assisting with the best course of action for drawing up a valid will.
What happens if you don’t make a will? Elizabeth Whitaker discusses:
Our wills, probate and trusts team is here to help.
Please call us to find out how we can help. We can talk on the phone or arrange a meeting where we can discuss your options and give you a clear idea of timeframes and costs.
Alternatively, please contact us online and we’ll call you back when it’s convenient for you.