Making a Will
Making a Will is one of the most important things you will do in your life and yet more than two out of three people don’t have one. A will does not signify the end, but it does secure the future.
You may assume that you do not need one because everything will go to your spouse; however, this may not be the case and can be especially tricky for those co-habiting.
Wills are important documents and ultimately ensure that your wishes are made clear and that your loved ones will be well cared for in the future when the worst happens.
It is also important that a Will is set out clearly as sorting out misunderstandings and disputes can be costly and upsetting for your family.
The consequences of not making a Will
Your assets will pass in accordance with the law and will not necessarily pass to those whom you consider closest to you.
- A common law spouse cannot benefit directly from your estate;
- If you are separated but not yet divorced, your estranged spouse could still inherit and be responsible for administering your estate;
- If you are married with children, your spouse may not get everything;
- If you are unmarried with children, it is possible that your partner will not receive anything, which is not likely to be desirable or in line with your wishes;
- You will not pass on any assets to people that are not directed related to you, including step children or charities;
- You will have no say in who looks after your children, if they are under 18, the courts may have to decide who is appointed as their guardians;
- You cannot make gifts; many people wish to make specific gifts or leave family heirlooms to relatives or charities;
- You have no control over what age your beneficiaries will inherit;
- You lose out on the ability to arrange your affairs in the most tax efficient manner, which may result in more Inheritance Tax becoming payable;
- There could be increased costs and delay in administering your estate.
Shop Bought Wills
Most Solicitors will have more than one story about a bereaved family finding out that the ‘do it yourself’ or shop bought Will did not accomplish what it was supposed to, or wasn’t properly carried out and therefore was invalid.
- Choosing without professional advice
It is always preferable that people speak to a professional about what they want and need from their Will. For example, a shop bought form cannot offer any advice on the best type of Trust to suit your needs
- One size doesn’t fit all
A template document is not going to be custom made to your needs. Every person has their own set of circumstances with different situations needing consideration.
- Changing Laws
How often are these forms updated to reflect changes in the law?
Can you have confidence that the document is still valid?
Renewing a Will
Even if you have already made a Will, you should review it on a regular basis.
You should look to renew your Will and protect your assets and wishes on any significant changes in your personal circumstances, for instance, whenever:
- New children, friends or relatives enter your life;
- You move home;
- You've come into money, through say, a large inheritance or lottery win;
- You get married or divorced;
- Your spouse passes away;
- The proposed executor of your Will passes away;
- One of the Beneficiaries of your Will dies before you do.
- You have a change of heart;
- You want to gift to charity.
A Living Will is a formal document which sets out your wishes in advance of what kind of medical treatment you would like and what medical care you would refuse should you be unable to communicate at the time.
Living Wills can be tailored to specific medical treatments which they may or may not wish to have, for example, artificial breathing or feeding. They are however, limited to only your medical treatment – it does not deal with your property or funeral requests, which are dealt with by way of a Will.
Living Wills are commonly made by people with a terminal illness, but can be made by any adult at any stage of life, provided that they have mental capacity at the time the document is signed.
You are able to set up a Living Will regardless of whether you are in long-term care or living independently and it gives you the ability to appoint a relative or friend who can make vital decisions regarding your treatment should the need arise.
Inheritance Tax and Estate Planning
Protecting what's yours after you are gone...
Inheritance tax is not just for the wealthy. Substantial rises in property values and increases in personal assets mean that many more people are directly affected by Inheritance Tax.
The impact of inheritance tax on even the most modest of estates can be severe. Inheritance tax is the tax levied by the Government on your estate when you die; a charge of 40% is made on the net worth of everything above the designated threshold, which is known as the Nil Rate Band (NRB), subject to certain exemptions.
It is levied upon everything you own, from all properties, cash savings and investments, personal effects and the value of life assurance policies.
The Nil Rate Band is currently £325,000.
Without effective inheritance tax planning, you could be leaving your family with a very large tax bill when you die.
Typical approaches to reducing Inheritance tax liabilities include:
- The efficient use of Trusts
- Ensuring assets are individually owned by family members up to the NRB threshold
- Putting a suitable Will in place
- Making full use of all Allowances and Exemptions
- The giving of Assets as gifts (often called Gifted Assets
- The use of IHT efficient investments
Frequently Asked Questions
You may have some additional questions, and here are some fo the more common ones on top of what we have covered in this guide that you may have... If we have not answered your question, please do get in touch with us. We are more than happy to talk things through with you.
Q - Can an executor be a beneficiary?
A - Yes, but a beneficiary must not witness a will.
Q - Can someone who is not of full capacity make a will?
A - Not themselves but it is possible to have one sanctioned by appropriate authorities.
Q - Can I protect my assets for members of the family who are bankrupt or financially improvident?
A - Yes by using discretionary trusts, assets can be available to meet beneficiaries needs without the beneficiary being able to demand them.