Writing a Will is pointless unless you actively maintain it. Here are some points to consider when writing or altering your Will.
Writing a Will is someting we Britons are quite prepared to bury our heads in the sand about, yet it is one of the most important legal documents and statement of wishes available to us. A few minutes of your time can save those that you leave behind from months of anxiety, uncertainty and heartache.
By making a Will you can decide what happens to your property and possessions after your death. Although you do not have to make one by law, it is the best way to make sure your estate is passed on to family and friends exactly as you wish. If you die without a Will, your assets may be distributed according to the law rather than your wishes.
Benefits of writing a Will
It's not really a case of why you should make a Will but of why you shouldn't fail to. If you die intestate (in other words without a Will) you run the risk of leaving behind a trail of stress, cost and even family feuds.
For example, once all of your liabilities have been accounted for, such as outstanding loans or overdrafts, your remaining assets will not automatically go to your current spouse if you are without a Will.
If you have no children, the law entitles your spouse to the first £450,000 of assets, and 50% of the remainder - the rest could end up with your parents, brothers and sisters and other relatives.
The worst-case scenario is if you die single with no children. In this instance, and in the absence of any other surviving relatives, your entire estate and possessions are likely to be passed to the Crown.
Unfortunately, the two certainties in life sometimes come knocking together and this is when your beneficiaries (other than your spouse) feel the impact of Inheritance Tax (IHT).
The threshold at which this tax is payable changes year-on-year but it kicks in at £325,000 (tax year 2016/2017) and is set at 40% or 36% if the estate qualifies for a reduced rate due to charitable donations you may have made. However, married couples and civil partners can pass on their estate tax-free (and also their tax-free allowance) when they die. This combined allowance will only attract Inheritance Tax if the estate is greater than £650,000.
Given the way property prices have risen over the past two decades, it is no longer just the wealthy who must consider IHT as part of their estate planning. If you live in London or the South East, there is a fair chance you too will have IHT liability.
Do some research or ask someone you trust for help finding a legal professional or financial adviser (IFA) who can show you how to minimise your IHT before you draw up your Will.
Making a Will
We recommend that you engage a professional to help you with your Will or estate, especially if you think it might be complex.
A professional Will writer can offer guidance on:
- Lasting Powers of Attorney and Court of Protection Work
- Advance Directive (Living Wills)
- Financial services (In Association with an independent financial advisor)
In today's ever more complex society handling the affairs of the deceased is nearly always a time consuming minefield of form and paper work consisting of:
- Probate applications
- Tax returns
- Building society and banks
- Estate agents
And this is for just a simple estate. There is always the chance that an incorrectly completed form, a missed asset or a simple mistake can cost the estate dearly. All this whilst the family are grieving and trying to come to terms with their loss.
Having professional help when you list the details of your beneficiaries and what you are leaving to them - ensures that no worry or problems will arise in the future.
Altering your Will
Whenever you make your Will, it is always possible that a number of factors in your life will change. If this means you need to amend your Will, it is important that you don't waste time in doing so.
For example, if you were single when you drew up your Will, it may become invalid if you get married. On then other hand, divorce or separation does not make a Will invalid so you might well want to make changes.
If they are significant alterations, you will need to create a new Will that will revoke any other Wills you have made.
If you just want to make minor alterations, you can add supplementary changes known as codicils – although these should be added separately and never made on the original document. Again, any alterations must be properly witnessed although the witnesses do not have to be the same as on the original will.