Life is busy and making a will is often not a priority. However, it is very important. Here are some things that you might want to think about when making a Will.
Unless you are leaving all your estate to a single, adult beneficiary (such as your spouse) then, ideally you should choose at least two people who you trust and who you believe will be able to do the job.
For obvious reasons it is a good idea to choose people who are younger than you (or at least not too much older) and who can do the job. Contrary to what many people think they can be beneficiaries of your estate.
You can appoint professional Executors (such as BGW) if you wish and this is a good option if you have no obvious choice amongst your family or friends or, if your estate is likely to be complicated or there is likely to be a dispute between the beneficiaries and you want someone independent. It is important that the people that you do appoint will be able to work together since it can be disastrous to appoint Executors who fall out.
If you have family heirlooms or personal items (such as paintings, china, jewellery, collections of books or music etc) that you want to pass on to specific beneficiaries then you should include those gifts in your Will. If you don’t then those items will go into the general estate pot (the residue) and could end up going to beneficiaries whom you didn’t intend to leave those items to.
If you have a large number of personal items you wish to gift then consider putting them in a separate letter that is linked to your Will.
If you have children under the age of 18 then you have the opportunity to appoint guardians, who would be responsible for looking after your children, should you and your partner die before the children are 18. Their appointment under your Will would only last until the children reach 18.
You can appoint family or friends as guardians and in theory a number of individuals could be appointed jointly.
If you have any specific wishes about your funeral then you should put them in your Will and/or communicate them to your family during your lifetime. If you give them no such guidance your executors will have to make a decision based on what they think you would have wanted and any views expressed by your family.
If you have business assets (such as shares in a family run business or perhaps you are in a business partnership) or agricultural assets (for example farm land or farming assets) you will need advice on how best to structure your Will to maximise any tax reliefs.
If you want to gift specific business assets in your Will then you will need to consider how those gifts interact with any shareholder’s or partnership agreements in place so there is no conflict between the two.
Trusts sound complicated and potentially expensive but they can be very useful in a Will if for example you want to benefit a disabled beneficiary, if you are concerned about your children inheriting too much too soon and spending it unwisely, if you have business or agricultural assets or you want to give your partner a right to live in your house after you have died. Trusts can be a sensible option and can in some circumstances help save your estate tax.
Sadly people do fall out with or become estranged from their children and often there is no clear cut reason as to why it has happened. If you intend to leave one of your children or a dependent out of your Will then you should get advice on the legal consequences of doing that as there are ways in which you can protect your estate.
Keep it Simple
Whilst it is your money and you want to make sure it passes to the right people, don’t over complicate your Will for the sake of it. The problem of unravelling the complexities will fall upon the executors and beneficiaries. If you leave a Will that is difficult for your Executors to understand or deal with then it may increase legal costs or worse still result in a dispute either of which will mean less money for those that you want to benefit.
If you want to make a Will, please contact any of our offices or send us a message using the contact form on the right of this page and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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