It can be tempting to put off making a will. After all, none of us want to think about a time when we’re no longer around. However, if you were to die without having one in place, your money and possessions may not be distributed in the way you want. The absence of a will can also create tensions and confusion among family members.
Meanwhile, specifying what you want to happen to your assets can help you to reduce the amount of inheritance tax you pay. On this issue, specialist solicitors The Law House state that a carefully planned will can minimise or eliminate the inheritance tax bill on your estate.
You might assume that putting these provisions in place will be a complicated and time consuming process, but with a little prior research, it should in fact be straightforward. This brief guide talks you through the basics.
What you need to include
Your will should set out your assets, including your money, possessions and property, and specify who you want to leave these things to (your beneficiaries). It should also give details of who will look after any children under the age of 18 and it must list your executors. These are the people who will sort out your estate and carry out your wishes as documented in your will. It isn’t necessary to appoint more than one executor, but it is advisable to do so. You can appoint up to four and the parties most often chosen are friends or relatives, solicitors or accountants, or banks.
Why you may need a solicitor
You have the option of drawing up your will yourself, but you should consider getting help from a solicitor, or at least having the finished document checked over by a legal expert. This is because any mistakes made could have the potential to cause problems after your death. Bear in mind that resolving any disputes or misunderstandings can result in potentially significant legal costs, which would reduce the amount of money left in your estate.
It’s especially important to get advice from professionals if your will is likely to be complicated. For example, you may need help if you share a property with someone who isn’t your spouse or civil partner, you want to leave assets to a dependant who is unable to look after themselves, you have a number of family members who may make a claim on your estate (such as children from another marriage), you own a business or you have property overseas.
How to make sure the document is legal
In order for your will to be legal, you must be 18 or over when you write it, make it voluntarily and be of sound mind. In addition, it has to be produced in writing and signed in the presence of two witnesses who are both over 18. It must also be signed by these witnesses. Note that you can’t leave these witnesses, or their spouses, anything in your will.
The importance of keeping it up to date
Once you’ve made your will, don’t simply shelve it and forget about it. It’s advisable to review the document around every five years, or whenever there is a major change in your life. For example, if you separate from a partner, have a child or move house, you may need to update it.
The thought of creating a will may seem scary, but it will probably be much easier than you think, and there is plenty of guidance on offer to help you along the way.