WRITING A WILL: IT’S NOT AS HARD AS YOU THINK
In my 12+ years as a solicitor I drafted Wills most days. My clients came from all walks of life and came with different personal and financial circumstances. Because I’ve had so much practice at drafting Wills they’re second nature to me.
I do though understand that it’s not the same for you. But trust me – you don’t need to feel that writing a Will is frightening or difficult. Yes, it’s true that some Wills need to have trusts and other special arrangements for families. But for most people, for most circumstances, it’s a simple process.
So, here’s the lowdown on some common Will features. Then, when you do come to getting your Will written you won’t be taking a step into the unknown. Rather you’ll be able to see that it’s a straightforward process.
We all need a Will, so I’m hoping this will encourage you to give me a call and have yours written. Then you can have both peace of mind and the satisfaction of ticking it off your ‘To Do’ list!
BACK TO BASICS: WHAT IS A WILL?
Before we talk about executors and guardians and all such things let’s first of all define what a Will is. According to Investopedia.com a Last Will and Testament is: ‘a legal document that communicates a person’s final wishes pertaining to possessions and dependents…’ Or, put another way, a set of instructions to persons (the executors) named by you about how to divvy up your assets.
EXECUTORS – WHO ARE THEY AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
Everyone should appoint executors in their Will. These will be the people with the legal responsibility to manage your estate and carry out the instructions in your Will. So how do you decide on who will be a suitable executor?
Well, if you are a couple, it’s common to firstly appoint each other to be your executors. Simple, right? But, when the second one of you dies who’ll be your executor then? If you’ve got grown up children you could then appoint them to be your executors.
These are just two examples.
Executors could also be other family members, a trusted friend or even a solicitor – although they will charge for doing it.
It obviously helps if the executors get on. But I can advise you on various options and I always get a detailed background from you in respect of your family. That way together we can decide on the most appropriate people to appoint. Incidentally, it doesn’t matter if the executors also benefit from your estate.
GUARDIANS – ARRGH! HOW DO WE DECIDE?
I have to say that this can create some lively discussions! It’s always advisable to appoint guardians in your Will if you have children under the age of 18. The guardians then take on the legal responsibility of raising your children if something happens to you and whoever else has parental responsibility over the children. In the simplest cases this is a husband and wife.
I say this creates lively discussions because it’s an important decision and one that can raise the spectre of family politics and divisions. It’s often the sticking point for many couples and I’m not denying that it requires careful consideration. However, as an objective third party, I can offer guidance through the options available and help couples choose guardians that they are both comfortable with and happy to appoint.
Do though ask the people concerned first. It’s imperative that they’re willing to take on the responsibility should that situation arise and they have to look after your children.
FUNERAL WISHES: DO IT YOUR WAY
This one is dead simple – if you’ll pardon the pun! I ask people if they have any strong inclinations about whether they wish to be buried, cremated or have their body used for research purposes. If you don’t like to think about this sort of thing then you don’t have to put this in the Will. But sometimes it can be helpful for your relatives to know that they’re carrying out your wishes.
At the other end of the scale, some people go into a lot of detail about what songs and hymns they want sung and also what readings they want. That classic ‘I did it My Way’ is rather popular it seems! But of course, you can do it your way.
You can also say what sort of ceremony you’d like. I ask people to put all these details in a letter, called a Letter of Wishes, that they keep with the Wills.
BENEFICIARIES – WHO AND HOW MUCH?
This is the big decision! Who will inherit you worldly possessions, your jewellery, your money, your Ming vase? There are two main ways of giving people things in Wills:
- LEGACIES – You can give people a cash legacy or give them a specific item (I’ll have the Ming Vase please!).
- DIVIDING UP THE ENTIRE ESTATE – You think of everything you own as say 100 percent and decide what percentage will go to whom e.g. 50 percent to your son and 50 percent to your daughter.
Some people leave legacies and then divide the rest of the estate up. But, more often than not, a husband and wife will simply leave everything to each other and then, when they both die, everything is divided equally between their children.
TRUSTS – NOW YOU’VE LOST ME!
Okay. I won’t lie. Trusts can be complicated and sometimes they need to be. But this is when a helpful person like me with lots of relevant expertise and knowledge comes in handy. I can advise you on whether you need a trust and, if so, what sort of trust best fits your requirements.
INHERITANCE TAX – WILL I HAVE TO PAY IT?
Just for fun (some would say) the government have got some new laws in place from 6th April 2017 about inheritance tax. I know all about them and I will be dedicating an entire blog to them soon – so you’ve been warned! However, in a nutshell, everyone has a Nil Rate Band (NRB) of £325,000.
What that means is this:
If your assets are below this figure you do NOT have to worry about inheritance tax.
If you own a house that you’ll be leaving to a direct descendant (e.g. a child), you also have another £100,000 that will be free of inheritance tax.
If you’re married and leave everything to each other, when you both die, there could be a total of £850,000 that will be inheritance tax free (and this is set to increase each tax year). Of course, it’s not as simple as it sounds but that’s where I can advise you on your specific circumstances and whether inheritance tax will be an issue for you.
YOU’RE IN GOOD HANDS SO DON’T DELAY IT ANY LONGER
Yes, I’d love to help all you lovely people that need Wills. But above all I want to allay some fears that many of you have.
Writing a Will does not have to be stressful. I’ll guide you through the process step-by-step in our meeting. I do all the hard work for you and draft the Wills and then I’ll meet you again to make sure the Will is signed correctly.
I’m only a phone call or email away if you’ve any questions or concerns. And I’m more than happy to have a chat with you first if you just want some guidance and clarity. I’m not scary either – I promise!
Everyone should have a Will and I love helping people get one in place and seeing the smiles on their faces when it’s all done and dusted. So, please don’t delay in getting one in place and make 2017 the year you write your Will.
After all – where there’s a will there’s a way!