Why do I need a will?
A legal will is the only way in which you can make sure that your money and assets are distributed in the way you would like. If you do not have a will when you die, your assets will be handled according to the law of intestacy. This means that you risk loved ones who are not directly related to you receiving nothing from your estate, or your estate being distributed to those that you are estranged, such as a separated spouse.
What do I need to think about before making a will?
1 – Your estate and its value
You will need to have a rough idea of the value of your estate, which you can ascertain by drawing up a list of your assets and debts. This should include any investments, such as stocks and shares, your home and any other property you own such as a car, savings, pensions funds and life insurance which provides a lump sum payment on death. You should also take into account the value of your household contents, including any high-cost items, such as jewellery, art, and antiques, as well as any other items of value that you may own, such as a car or boat. Debts may include a mortgage, overdraft, credit cards, or loans. Getting a rough value of your estate is also necessary for ascertaining your inheritance tax risk. An experienced will estate lawyer will be able to advise on ways in which you can mitigate any inheritance tax.
2 – How you want to divide up your estate, choosing beneficiaries
Next, you will need to decide how you wish to divide up your estate, including who should benefit, whether you wish to include any charities, and what should happen if any of your beneficiaries die before you. Before you make an appointment with a will and trust attorney make a list of everyone you would like to benefit from your will.
3 – Who you want to execute your will, choosing executors and trustees
You will also need to appoint executors and trustees in your will, who will make sure that your will is executed in accordance with your wishes. Many people opt to choose close friends and family, as well as an experienced will estate lawyer. Before selecting friends and family members check that they will be happy to execute your will as it can be time-consuming.
4 – Who you want to look after your children, if any
If you have children under the age of 18 when you die, you can state in your last will and testament who you would like to look after them.
Writing a last will and testament, what documents do I need?
To make a legal will your will lawyer will need information about your assets, debts, and intended beneficiaries, executors and trustees.
You will need to gather documents related to your estate, including property, bank and investment details, and any insurance policies. A will and trust attorney will also require information about any debts you may have.
You will also need to include details of any beneficiaries, including their full names, and address, as well as these details for any executors and trustees.
What should I put in a will?
A will can be as complicated or as simple as you wish, and your will lawyer will be able to guide you with your wills and estate planning.
First and foremost, your legal will should include your details and those of your immediate family, as well as those of your beneficiaries.
Some people choose to divide up their assets equally between their children or leave it all to a spouse. Others identify meaningful chattels, such as items of jewellery, or a set amount of funds that they would like to leave to a specific friend, family member, or charity.
You can also state if you wish to exclude certain people from making a claim against your estate who would ordinarily be entitled to, such as an ex-spouse, or perhaps a child or close family member that you have cut ties with. This is known as an exclusion cause. A professional and experienced will lawyer, such as the team of lawyers specializing in wills at Graysons, will be able to advise you.
Things to include in your legal will:
- Your details, including your full name, date of birth, address, as well as details of any immediate family members
- Details of any executors and trustees
- Details of beneficiaries
- Details of any legacy gifts
- Any exclusion clauses
- Who should look after your children aged under 18, if any
How can I ensure my legal will is valid?
By using a professional and experienced will lawyer to write your will you can rest assured that your will is legal. Some important things to note to ensure that your will is legal are:
- You must be aged 18 years, or over, to write a will and last testament
- You must be of sound mind, and the will must be made voluntarily
- The legal will must be in writing
- It must be signed by two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will. Graysons team of will writers and attorneys can act as witnesses to your will
- The will must be signed by you, in the presence of two witnesses. Again, these witnesses can be members of the Graysons’ team.
- Ensure that the will is dated. This is especially important if you are writing a new will.
Why should I use the services of a will lawyer?
A professional wills and testament attorney will ensure all aspects are covered in your will and that it is accurately drafted in accordance with the law. If you do not use a professional wills solicitor, you may you end up with costly mistakes. This can cause numerous problems for executors of the will, including incurring extra costs that will be taken from your estate. An error may even make your will invalid.
Where should I keep my will?
It is vital that you keep your original legal will in a safe place and that you advise your executors and close family members where it is stored. Many people opt to keep their original will with a wills and trust attorney such as Graysons Solictors. You can also arrange for your original will to be kept by the Principal Registry of the Family Division.
What happens if I need to change my will
You should update your will and last testament if your circumstances change. This can include re-marrying, a change in financial situation, or if you have children or grandchildren. Note, however, that you cannot make changes to your original will. You must create a new will, or add a codicil, which legally amends your exisiting will. Let your will lawyer know if you wish to change your legal will. Here at Graysons we contact our clients every couple of years to offer a free review of their will.
If you need help writing a will, or need advice on wills and estate planning, then contact the team of will lawyers at Graysons.