Making a Will is one of those things we often say we are going to do, but never seem to get around to. Or maybe it is just too difficult to think about.
Too many things get in the way. Holidays. Painting the hall. Family responsibilities and before you know it, making a Will is at the bottom of the ‘to do list’ and the kids are now adults. However, there is no need to put off making a Will, we can make it easier for you than you may think.
The importance of a well-thought out and well-drafted Will is often underestimated and there a lot of myths to bust surrounding reasons for not making a Will but, there are a lot of good reasons to make one, such as:
(1) Set out your funeral wishes
An often-overlooked element of making a Will is stating funeral wishes. Having your wishes stated clearly in your Will can save your family and friends second-guessing what you really did want. Sadly, there are many real-life cases of disputes over funerals, burials, gravestones and even how ashes are divided up.
Funeral wishes can include whether you wish to be buried or cremated, donating your body to medical science, any religious preferences, what type of service you would like whether you would like donations to a charity or even if you want the people attending to wear a certain colour!
If you have a pre-paid funeral plan, you can still state your funeral wishes by stating you have a funeral plan in your Will and where the funeral plan is held. This will then enable your family or executors to contact the funeral directors as required and put your wishes into action.
(2) Name your children’s guardian
One of the most precious things in your life is your children and you want to ensure they are well looked after.
When the children are young, you might think you don’t have a lot of assets to consider it worthwhile making a Will. You might not even want to think about what could happen should you die when the children are young. You might have taken out life insurance to pay off the mortgage if anything happens so the children have a home, but who would look after the children if you were not around?
It is vital to appoint guardians in your Will who will make the important decisions in your child’s life. You have the choice as to who looks after the children, rather than potentially the Court making that decision and appointing someone you may not wish to look after your children.
(3) Beware of home-made Wills
It can be tempting to make a home-made Will to save time and money but making a home-made Will can be a false economy.
The person making the Will may not read and understand the instructions. The Will may be witnessed incorrectly or not dispose of all the assets in the estate.
A badly drafted Will can have far-reaching consequences, not just from a financial point of view. The collateral damage and fall out caused to the family and friends left behind can be enormous, being the additional time, expense, and emotional distress, which could easily have been avoided.
With a professionally drafted Will, you can be certain that the person advising you is appropriately qualified, will give you the advice relevant to you and, most importantly, is insured if things go wrong.
(4) Ensure your children/stepchildren are provided for financially
Sometimes it can just feel too difficult to even think about making a Will as life may just feel too complicated.
The family may have a mixture of children and stepchildren due to marriage and re-marriages.
Although the children and stepchildren may all be thought of as ‘children’ and treated the same by the parent and step-parent, they are considered very differently in respect of Wills. When making a Will, careful consideration needs to be given as to who is to be included or excluded and who is covered by what definitions in the Will. This also extends to grandchildren and step-grandchildren.
If the deceased has not made a Will, then the Intestacy Rules will apply. If the deceased is survived by children and stepchildren, then only the deceased’s blood children will inherit. It does not matter if the deceased considered their stepchildren as their children.
(5) Protect your partner if you’re unmarried
If you die without leaving a will, the ‘rules of intestacy’ apply. This means that your blood relations will be the beneficiaries of your estate. However, if you die and you have a partner that you are not married to, then your partner has no automatic right to inherit anything under the intestacy rules. Remember, common law marriage does not exist in English law.
It is therefore vitally important that you make a will to protect your partner and ensure that they will benefit from your estate.
(6) Safeguard your family home
When making a will a lot of couples like to keep things straightforward. Often, they want to just leave everything to their surviving spouse or partner. What a lot of people don’t consider is after the first person has died, the surviving partner may then change their own will. They could choose to leave their estate, which includes the assets from the first person who died, to a new partner rather than the children. It is so important to consider this when making wills.
A life interest property trust in your will is one good way to avoid this situation, as this can ensure that your share of the family home will go into trust for your children, rather than directly to your spouse or partner, whilst also ensuring that your surviving spouse can continue to live there.
(7) Head off family disputes
It is so important to carefully consider who should inherit your estate when you die. This is even more so important if your family circumstances or assets are complex, for example if you or your partner have children from previous relationships.
If you don’t have a will, the intestacy rules will apply which may create unwanted results on your death. This could cause costly disputes amongst family members and, by far, the best way to give effect to your wishes is by putting in place a valid Will to avoid such disputes.
(8) Avoid paying more inheritance tax than you need to
Inheritance tax can be a huge liability to a deceased’s estate which means less inheritance for your loved ones. The current inheritance tax allowance for an individual is £325,000 and anything over and above that amount is taxed at 40%.
There are ways to structure and plan your affairs to reduce the inheritance tax liability on your death and additional allowances may be available to you, depending on your circumstances. When making a will we can advise on making the most of inheritance tax rates and allowances including the relatively new residence nil rate band rules, taking advantage of the seven year rules, setting up trusts and more.
(9) Protect you if you’re recently married
A lot of people don’t know that marriage automatically revokes any earlier wills (although a will can be made ‘in contemplation of marriage’ so that it isn’t revoked). We would strongly advise married couples and civil partners to write a Will.
Making a will is a reliable way to make sure that your new spouse is provided for. Contrary to popular belief, the Intestacy Rules may not mean that everything automatically passes to your spouse when you die.
There are also rules about how divorce affects a Will, so it is important to take legal advice whenever you have an important life change.
(10) Say who you want to look after your pets
Your pets are part of your family and, when you die, you should think about what will happen to them. This is even more important if you don’t have close family or if your pet is unusual.
The law in England means that it is not possible to leave a gift direct to your pet (despite the stories about wealthy widows leaving their whole estate to their cat!). However, you can gift your pets to another person, or you can request that an animal charity looks after them instead. You could also leave your chosen beneficiary a cash gift to cover some of the costs of looking after your pet but, if you do this, you must be careful to word the gift correctly so that they only receive the cash if they agree to look after your pet.
Lots of charities will look after or rehome pets, such as the Cinnamon Trust and the Dogs Trust under their Canine Care Card Scheme.
(11) Protect your digital assets
Ownership of digital assets is complicated – sometimes the asset belongs to you and other times you only have a licence to access or use something. It all depends on the terms and conditions of the service/site.
If the assets are owned by you, then they may have some value which means that they can be gifted in your will. It is therefore important to leave instructions to your executors in your will about what should happen to these assets when you die.
Since your digital content may actually be owned by the online service provider, you should also back up your digital assets by, for example, storing your photos on a disc or printing hard copies.
(12) Support a charity
Using your Will to support a charity is a great way to leave a positive legacy for the future. Legacies make up a huge part of a charity’s funding and in enabling them to continue their work. Even small legacies add up and can make a huge difference.
There are also tax advantages to giving money to charity. Depending on how much of your estate you leave to charity, it can reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that has to be paid so your beneficiaries get the most from your estate.
Set the wheels in motion to protect you and your family today by contacting our expert team to arrange a no-obligation telephone, skype or zoom appointment to discuss your Will on 0191 567 0465 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org