Writing a proper will doesn’t have to be a minefield of complicated and confusing jargon. We’re here to take you through the ins-and-outs of the process in simple, readable terms, so you can make sure you get it right.
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What is A will?
A will is simply a legal document which outlines how a person wishes to distribute their property and assets after death. It can also include other details such as how they wish their body to be treated or buried, and clauses that dictate at what point their assets should be distributed.
Wills are often paired with a ‘Letter of Wishes’, which guides the executors of your will on more specific aspects, such as when any children are to receive their inheritances.
You should know…
While your will and its contents are confidential, once you pass away and your executors start applying for probate, your will becomes a public document that anyone can view.
If there are things that you would rather keep private even after death, it is best to include these in your letter of wishes. These days, people may wish to include details of social media credentials, or passwords to important documents that they may not want to be distributed to the general public.
WHY SHOULD You HAVE A WILL?
The intestacy rules govern how your estate is distributed in the event you do not have a will. If you don’t have a will, your assets will be passed on in the following order:
- Everything to your spouse or civil partner, or
- Everything to your children, or
- Everything to other close relatives, or
- Everything to the state if no other relatives can be found
If you are not married but in a relationship and you pass away, your partner won’t be entitled to anything.
Similarly, if you are separated from a previous marriage but not divorced and have a new partner, your new partner won’t receive anything from your estate if you die. Instead, your first spouse will receive your entire estate.
While not applicable to everyone, business owners should be mindful of having a will in place in the event they unexpectedly die.
A ‘business will’ takes into account who will own the business, how decisions are made, and where company funds are directed to if you pass away.
This in turn ensures the business continues to run rather than shareholder and employee feuds taking root.
By saying what will go to who, and listing out everything you own and where each item is located, you will save your executors the hassle of tracking down your assets. This saves time and therefore money when it comes to applying for a grant of probate.
Provision for Financial Dependants
While it’s customary to leave everything to your partner and children if you have any, you may also have people who are financially dependent on you.
By writing financial dependants into your will, you can ensure they are looked after after you pass away.
With the correct planning, your will can be structured in such a way that as much of your assets as possible pass to your beneficiaries.
By doing things like making charitable donations or creating trusts, your beneficiaries could receive more of your estate than they otherwise would have.
How A Lawyer Can Help With Writing a Will
Having a private client lawyer help you write your will ensures that it is not only comprehensive, but that it is also executed and stored correctly.
If you have been divorced in the past or are unmarried but want your partner to benefit from your estate, a will can make provisions for the right people to inherit from you. This is especially important for LGBT and younger couples who may choose not to marry or enter into a civil partnership.
Will writing services may be suitable for the most basic of wills, but they will unlikely cover more complex requirements and larger estates.
Furthermore, private client lawyers will typically also have knowledge of the inheritance tax rules and estate planning to ensure your will and overall estate work in tandem to maximise how much of your estate passes on.
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