What is a Last Will and Testament?
A Will or Last Will and Testament is the most important legal document you will ever make, it sets out your final wishes.
It names your beneficiaries, these may be family members, friends, individuals and or charities who are to receive your property, assets and possessions (your Estate) once you have passed away.
Furthermore, in the provision of your Will, you can nominate executors to be responsible for the distribution of your property and assets to your intended beneficiaries
How to write a Will
1. Value your Estate, this should include the following:
How to write a Will
1. Value your Estate, this should include the following:
2. Calculate your debts if you have any. This should include:
3. Choose your Executors
These can be you your spouse/partner, family members, friend or a professional (Solicitor)
4. Name your Beneficiaries
These are the people who will inherit after you have passed away.
5. Distribution of your Estate
you can divide your estate between a number of people in certain percentages, e.g. 50% to your spouse and the remaining 50% to be divided equally to your children. You need to decide what you want to happen if a beneficiary should pre-decease you (if they should die before you do). You can also make specific gifts to particular people.
In the unlikely event that both you and your partner pass away leaving children under the age of 18 (minor children), you may consider incorporating a “guardianship clause” into your Will. This would give you peace of mind that your children have been left in the care of someone you trust.
A guardian would have the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of your child with regard to their upbringing, including decisions on with whom your child will live and where they will attend school. This is known as “parental responsibility”.
7. Funeral requests
Your wishes can be recorded in your will e.g. If you want to buried or cremated and where. Furthermore, many people now take out a funeral plan and in some cases, the executors may not know. Therefore, stating in your will that you do have a plan would help your executors and family.
Making a Will is the only way you can be sure that your final wishes are carried out
What constitutes a legal Will?
The will must be signed by two witnesses. The witnesses must be present and watch you sign the will, They do not have to read the will. Your witnesses must not be people who will inherit (beneficiaries) under the will. If a witness is a beneficiary or the married spouse /civil partner of a beneficiary), the will is still valid but the beneficiary will Not be able to inherit under the will.
The testator must have mental capacity, (learn about The Mental Capacity Act 2005) and be able to read and understand his/her Will. Furthermore, the Will must be voluntarily signed by the testator.
A will executed by a person who was coerced into signing their will, or who signed it under duress, is not considered to be a valid will. A will must properly dispose of the testator's property and assets
What happens if I die without making a Will?
Many people are unaware of what happens if you die without writing a Will. It is called intestate and rules of intestacy will apply. This means that your estate will be divided up according to the law and only certain people will inherit under these rules. This could cause financial hardship and some of your intended beneficiaries may lose out!
What does dying intestate mean?
Below we have set out a few scenarios which will give you an idea of how the rules of intestacy could apply.
Your Status if you die without a valid Will.
1. Married or in a civil partnership with children (birth or adopted)
Your surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit the first £250,000 of the estate, all your chattels (personal possessions), and then be fully entitled (i.e., outright) to half of the remainder above that amount. Your children will receive half of anything above £250,000 – and that will be kept in trust until they can access it at 18 years old. If your estate is worth less than £250,000, your spouse or civil partner will inherit the whole of your estate and your children will receive nothing.
This applies even if you have informally separated from a spouse or civil partner and not yet legally divorced or ended the partnership.
2. Married or in a civil partnership with no children
Your spouse or civil partner will inherit your whole estate, including your chattels, even if you have informally separated. There’s nothing for your parents or extended family.
3. You have children but you are unmarried, divorced or widowed
Your children are first in line for your inheritance, and, if you have a common-law partner, they’ll get nothing.
4. You have grandchildren, but no surviving children nor spouse/civil partner
grandchildren (and their descendants) are next in the pecking order from your children. If your child (their parent) has already died or dies before your grandchildren turn 18, then the grandchildren will inherit their share of your estate.
5. You’re unmarried with no surviving children, grandchildren of great-grandchildren
Whether or not you are widowed, co-habiting or you are single, you’re treated legally as if you were single. That means any common-law partner receives nothing after your death, with the inheritance being distributed to the closest blood relatives in the order we discussed above. So if you die intestate and unmarried but with surviving parents, the whole of your estate would go to them. If there were no surviving parents, it would go to your siblings or their children.
6. You have children from multiple relationships, adopted children or step-children
All of your biological and legally adopted children will be treated equally, meaning they will get an equal share of your estate. There’s no provision for step-children in the new intestacy rules – no matter how long you’ve cared for them. Only biological and legally-adopted children have a right to inherit. So if you want to provide for step-children too, you need to make a will! If you had children but they were adopted out of your family before your death, they don’t have a right to inherit under the intestacy rules. If you currently have children but would like them to be legally adopted by a trusted guardian or family member after your death, the new intestacy rules mean that they are still able to inherit from your estate.
Why should I use Regulated Will Writers or a Solicitor?
Many people except they are not prepared to write their own will in case their intentions are misinterpreted or they leave out something important, leading to family feuds after they have gone.
Professional Will Writers concentrate entirely on aspects of Will Writing and Estate Planning providing an expert service which will provide a legally protected legacy.
Wills are constantly being challenged, in each case, a ruling has been made to interpret the intended meaning of the wording of the Will.
One of the most significant features that sets apart a professionally drafted Will from a homemade Will is that Professional Will Writers create clauses within a Will that have the correct structure and phraseology.
These clauses have been accepted in the past and go a long way towards writing a 'watertight' Will that cannot be misinterpreted if contested.
Society of will writers members have to have professional indemnity Insurance up to £2 million and have to adhere to the code of practice set out by the society who regulate them. Furthermore, they have to complete their continual professional development (CPD) to prove they are code compliant.
How do you know that your will writer is a professional?
All professional will writers should be members of the Society of Will Writers or Institute of Professional Will Writers. These are the regulatory bodies for the Will writing sector. All regulated Will writers have to adhere to the code of practice set out by the regulatory body and have to complete their Continual Professional Development on a monthly basis and are audited at the end of each year.
If you haven't made a will yet and would like some advice or to book an appointment. Just send us a brief message. Although we are based in Kent, we can accommodate appointment throughout the wider South East.
None of us likes paperwork
A professional will writer makes the process far easier by visiting you at home, discussing your circumstances and wishes, then advise you on the best options. There may be situations where further Inheritance Tax Planning may be advisable. Once you are in a position to proceed the Will Writer will take your testamentary instruction and guide you through all aspects of your will. Once your will is drafted the will writer will return to oversee the attestation - the signing and witnessing of your will.
How much is a Will?
There are various types of wills. However, you can view our standard will prices and legal services fees by simply clicking on the following link. Will prices and fixed fee legal services