Writing a Will is arguably one of the most important things you will do in your life but certainly the most important document. With a will you are helping to ensure not only that your estate is looked after when you are gone, but also that your loved ones are protected and that your wishes are carried out. Not only that but if you are suddenly unable to make important decisions due to illness or injury a will allows you to have someone ready to be appointed with Power of Attorney so giving them the power to make the decisions for you.
With this in mind we have created this list of 8 important considerations you should have when proceeding with writing your will in the hope that it can help relieve some of the stress of the unknown that can occur when carrying out this process.
1. Don’t overlook the small things
Often when it comes to preparing a will people think to include only the big things in their lives, however many things such as your home or bank accounts are already legally automatically awarded to your joint partner, also retirement and insurance policies are likely to already have beneficiaries set to receive the funds. Things to think about that you may have overlooked are your sentimental items such as a family heirloom, jewellery, ornaments, furniture which you wish for a particular person to receive. By creating a will you are taking the pressure off of your loved ones to remember all of your wishes and helping to lessen the pressure and stress of the estate management.
2. Assigning beneficiaries
A beneficiary is an individual who is set to receive an assets/assets when you pass away. Assets which are not allocated to a beneficiary within a will go through into probate. Direct beneficiaries are generally named on things such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts.
3. Who will manage and administer your estate?
Executors are the people who are legally appointed to deal with a person’s estate after they are gone. With this position you are making your chosen executor responsible for distributing your estate and carrying out your wishes as instructed in your will.
Taking care of your property and instructions when you are gone can be a complicated with the process potentially taking several months so it’s important to pick the executor of your will carefully. The executor of your will must be over 18, can be someone who is named as a beneficiary and should be somebody you trust.
4. Should you be appointing Guardians?
The appointment of a guardian occurs if you pass away and there is no other person alive who has parental responsibility of the child/children. With this appointment the child’s guardian will have legal duty of care whilst they are a minor (up until the age of 18). If you have a child who is currently under the age of 18 it is recommended you appoint a guardian to provide the security that yourself and any other with direct parental responsibility should pass away. Without this appointment in writing, signed and dated under the terms of a will and if no other parent has parental responsibility then the court will decide who takes over the care of your child when you are gone.
It’s all about picking the people that you would have raise your children if you are no longer around.
5. Can my will be contested?
There are a number of circumstances under which a will can be contested however every situation is different so it is always best to seek legal advice if you are unsure where you stand with the execution of a will. Areas where a will have the potential to be contested include if the will was not signed properly, the individual who wrote the will lacked the capacity to do so, was pressured/coerced into making the will, they were unaware of the contents of the will or if the will was forged.
If any of the above is applicable and the will deemed invalid then the estate will be executed in line with any previous valid will or intestacy rules.
6. Does my will need updating?
There are a number of ‘life events’ that may occur to either yourself or a family member which may result in you wishing to update your will. These major events include marriage/divorce, a long-term change to a relationship, birth or adoption of a child, death of a family member or beneficiary, change in the value of an estate or any changes to property/large asset holdings. You should also look to update a will if the circumstances/relationship with a guardian, executor or trustee changes as well as if your children are no longer minors and able to handle matters on their own.
As a general rule you should look to review and update (if necessary) your will every 5 years to reassess any situation changes.
N.B. you can’t update your will once signed and witnessed but you can make official alterations through a signed and witnessed codicil which amends the original will.
7. What are the legal must-haves for a will to be valid?
- A will is not valid unless signed by the individual making the will
- It must also be signed and dated by a witness to corroborate that it was written truly and not under
- When writing your will you must be of sound mind
- The will must be voluntary
- And when writing a will you must be 18 or over.
8. So do you actually need a solicitor to prepare your will?
There is a common misconception that a solicitor is required to prepare a will and make it legally valid however this is not the case. The thing with this is that although not required having a solicitor guiding you through the process can help you to not only ensure all of your estate is protected by your wishes but also help you to identify any legal areas which you should be considering alongside it such as appointing health & financial powers of attorney as well as any legal constraints to your will (You may want to draw up a living will should you become sick). With this in mind even if you do not wish to have a solicitor prepare your will for you, it is always worthwhile to have a legal advisor have a look over your document to ensure everything is legally valid and in place. In particular if your circumstances are not simple i.e. you do not want to leave everything to your married partner, and if they are deceased then your children it is advisable to seek out a solicitor to help with your will.