A Will is probably of the most important documents you will ever complete in your lifetime.
A Will is a written, legal document which specifies where you wish your money, possessions, and property less any debts to pass to when you die.
Why Make a Will?
A Will will direct how you wish your estate to pass when you die. If you die without a valid Will in place, then this can result in what is known as an ‘intestacy’ and the law will decide how your estate will pass instead. Therefore, your assets for instance, may pass to a distant family member on your death who you previously had no intention of providing for.
Another major advantage of doing a Will is that if you have children who are under 18, you can appoint a guardian in your Will to look after them. Although you may have verbally appointed a godparent for instance, appointing a guardian in your Will is legally binding. If both parents of a child die without formally appointing a guardian or guardians, then only the court can appoint one.
Another good reason to do a Will is that if you are not married to your partner, they will not automatically be entitled to inherit anything from your estate, unless you have named them specifically in your Will. This includes even if you have lived together and have children. There is no such definition of a “common-law” marriage in England and Wales. Therefore, if your partner is not named in your Will, and you did wish for them to inherit from your estate, if an agreement could not be reached with the other beneficiaries, then they may need to start legal proceedings and potentially go to Court. Whereas if you have named them in your Will at the outset, then hopefully the potential expense, time and frustration of additional legal and/or court proceedings can be avoided.
There can also be inheritance tax savings in doing a Will, which is certainly another important consideration.
In this day and age there are so many “blended” families, with people re-marrying and having children from a second and sometimes a third marriages, or relationships. It is possible to set up a trust in your Will which can provide for your spouse but also offer your children some protection in the event of your death and if your spouse were to remarry for instance.
These examples are not an exhaustive list but they are important points to consider when making a Will.
How Do I Create a Will?
At its most basic level, a Will needs to be:
- In writing and correctly drafted;
- Signed by the person (known as the testator) or at their direction in their presence;
- The testator must have intended their signature to give effect to the Will i.e. they want to make a Will; and
- The Will must be witnessed by two appropriate witnesses.
Due to the current outbreak of coronavirus the government has made temporary changes to the execution of Wills as a last resort, however, we still always recommend that the above steps are carried out. If these measures are not correctly followed, then this can result in an intestacy and your estate not passing as you would wish. This can be very time-consuming and costly to correct.
This is why we always recommend that a Will is drawn up by a recognised legal professional.
Finally, we always recommend that a Will is registered on the National Will Register known as Certainty. This is a fantastic online tool which keeps a record of Wills on its database. Even if a Will has not been registered, it can also search the area where the testator lived. The existence of the Will and its location will remain confidential until your death. The register will also not disclose the contents of the Will but it will however put whoever is searching the register in contact with the firm who drafted the Will or the firm who is now holding the Will. This can be incredibly useful if an executor is unable to locate a Will or if they are not sure if the Will they are holding is the last Will of the testator. Please contact any member of our team if you have any questions about this video and we will be more than happy to assist with your queries.