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One of the most important decisions in life is generally the one that the majority of UK adults fail to make and that is to make a Will. Many people consider that it is not necessary, too complicated and expensive whereas the reality is that a professionally drafted Will can confer some real benefits and once made will give you complete peace of mind that your actual wishes will be carried out when you die.
These guidance notes set out the main reasons why it is important to make a Will and what can happen if you don’t. A Will is probably the most important document that you will ever sign and is vital that it is done correctly!
1. SIMPLIFIED ADMINISTRATION
The process of administering your affairs on death is greatly simplified if your wishes are set out in a Will. This can potentially save your family and relatives unnecessary time and expense and stress at what is already a difficult time for them.
2. AVOIDS INTESTACY RULES
If you die without a Will then the statutory intestacy rules will govern who receives what from your estate which may not be in accordance with your wishes. Application of these rules may have the effect of your estate passing to people you would otherwise have no intention of benefitting. To ensure that your estate goes where you want it to it is essential to make a Will.
Having a Will in place gives you complete control over who receives your property and in what proportions. You can name specific people such as unmarried partners or step-children who would not otherwise benefit and also make provision for charities.
4. CHOICE OF EXECUTORS AND TRUSTEES
A personal choice can be made as to who you would prefer to administer your estate and/or any trusts that might arise. You can choose people you trust and who you consider to be capable.
5. APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIANS
In the same way as you can choose executors and trustees you can also make a personal choice as to the appointment of testamentary guardians to take care of any minor children at the date of death. Trusted individuals who are willing to act could be appointed thereby avoiding the need for court-appointed persons to become involved.
6. FUNERAL WISHES
Instructions regarding your funeral are not normally discussed within families so a Will is a useful document in which to have these wishes set out. Whilst such wishes are not binding on your executors it is unlikely that they would be disregarded. You could, for example, specify whether you wish your body to be used for research or your organs be used for transplant and also whether you wish to be buried or cremated. Arrangements can also be set out for your funeral. These wishes can be as detailed as you like, and, if particularly lengthy, can be set out in a separate Letter of Wishes which can be altered independently at a later date without the need to change the Will.
7. PROVISION FOR VULNERABLE BENEFICIARIES
Without a Will in place there is no way in which you can make appropriate provision for beneficiaries who are vulnerable by reason of mental disability. It is usual in these cases for a special type of trust to be set up within your Will which allows the assets available to the trustees to be effectively managed in such a way that the disabled beneficiary does not receive large sums of money which could mean that they could lose entitlement to any means-tested benefits.
8. PRESERVATION OF ASSETS
A properly drafted Will can also provide for beneficiaries who are in need of provision whilst also protecting the assets for the benefit of other beneficiaries, for example, shares in a jointly owned property can be protected in a Will Trust known as a Life Interest Trust for the benefit of children whilst giving a surviving spouse or partner a right to live in the property for life or until certain events occur. Such a trust also has benefits in protecting the assets from being taken into account in any financial assessment should the survivor require residential care.
9. INHERITANCE TAX
A Will can help to keep Inheritance Tax top a minimum if it is drafted in such as a way as to maximise availability on death of certain exemptions and reliefs such as the Residential Nil Rate Band, also making charitable and lifetime gifts.
If you have pets, a Will can include a clause providing for their future care, if you die before them, giving you peace of mind that they will be looked after.
These guidance notes hopefully clarify the main reasons why it is important to have a Will. It is also important to keep your Will, once made, under review since certain changes in your personal circumstances can affect its validity, for example, marriage or divorce. Marriage or entering into a civil partnership automatically cancels a Will unless you were intending to marry or enter into a civil partnership when you made your Will and the Will says so. Divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership on the other hand has the effect that the Will is not cancelled but gifts to your former spouse or civil partner will be cancelled as will any appointment of that former spouse or civil partner as your executor. You should also review your Will in the event of house moves, birth of children or death of a beneficiary, these can all have an effect and it is important to review your Will in these circumstances, otherwise Wills should be reviewed every 3 to 5 years to ensure that they still record your wishes.
WHY COME TO US?
We will help you clarify your own ideas - your Will needs to cater for many different eventualities some of which you may not even have thought of!
We use our extensive legal expertise in preparing your Will - this involves not only knowledge of the law relating to Wills but also trusts and taxation.
We will guide you through the intricacies of Inheritance Tax helping you minimise its effects and explain the various exemptions and reliefs available to you.
We also provide a free of charge storage facility for your Will in our strong-room.
WHAT WILL IT COST?
We believe that our charges will be very reasonable when weighed against the peace of mind and potential financial benefits to be gained from making a Will.
We are happy to give you an idea of the likely cost but it is important that your Will is tailored to your own specific needs and it may not be possible to tell you exactly what the final cost will be until all your requirements are known. There is really no such thing as a ‘standard Will’.
These notes are intended as a general guide to the law regarding Wills and should not be relied upon as specific legal advice. If you require assistance in this area, please contact the Wills Department on 01455 610747 to speak to a member of the team or to make an appointment. Alternatively, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or complete an online Will Questionnaire.
We have offices in Hinckley, Market Bosworth, Stoney Stanton, Leamington Spa & Warwick. You can find details of our offices here.