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Writing a Will Checklist: the 8 things you need to consider
- AuthorJane Cox
Having an up to date Will is one of the most important legal documents you will make during your lifetime, particularly if you are an unmarried couple living in a property you own, or if you are divorced and have children from previous marriages. We know that the prospect of making a Will is a daunting one, so here, Jane Cox, Private Client Partner, explains the ten key considerations you should make when it comes to writing your Will.
1). Listing your assets
The first step when planning to write your Will is to list your assets and who you wish to inherit them. Your assets would include:
- Property that is solely owned both in the UK and abroad in your name (in certain circumstances, if you own property jointly with your spouse or partner it can pass automatically to them but it is always prudent to take legal advice)
- Bank accounts
- Stocks and shares
- Any businesses you own
- Online accounts
- Personal effects such as jewellery or other heirlooms
Listing your assets will not only allow you to decide who should inherit, but will also give you an indication as to the size of your asset so you can determine whether any Inheritance Tax (IHT) would be payable by your loved ones. Currently, the threshold for IHT being payable is if your estate exceeds £325,000. There are provisions and reliefs available, such as the Residence Nil Rate Band, and you can minimise your estate by making gifts during your lifetime; this is a complex area of law and so we would always advise that you seek appropriate legal advice when considering IHT planning as the best option for you will depend on your own family arrangements.
As well as listing your assets, you should also list all outstanding debts which would impact the size of your estate or could leave your loved ones responsible for after your death. Such debts would include:
- Credit cards
- Student or other personal loans
- Car loans/leases
- Outstanding taxes
2). What should you consider in your Will if you own a business?
Writing a Will not only plans for your family life but also for your business affairs. If you own a business or you are a shareholder, you will need to leave instructions as to how the business proceeds. This would include:
- What happens to your shareholder or partnership options
- Updating the articles of association for the company to accommodate the wishes in your Will
- Thinking about future succession planning of the company.
Our Company Commercial team can offer their expert advice and discuss with you other considerations you would need to make for the future of your business.
3). Who will be your beneficiaries?
Your beneficiaries are the people who will inherit your assets. This may be a simple decision for you, or it may be more complicated if you have a large family, if you have been divorced, or you are not married. It may come to light that, due to your family situation, a different type of Will may be more appropriate, for example a Life Interest Trust Will, which can help ringfence certain assets for your children from a previous marriage. We can discuss all options with you to find the best option for you and your loved ones.
You may wish just one person to inherit, in which case we would also recommend including provisions for if they should pass away before you, or you may wish to leave specific items or assets to specific people or charitable organisations.
You should be prepared to provide the full contact details for all of your beneficiaries at the time of drafting your Will.
4). Who will be your Executor(s)?
An Executor is the person who will handle your estate and apply for probate upon your death. You should ensure that the person you nominate is happy to accept the responsibility to do so, that you trust them and that they have an understanding of your wishes.
You should also be prepared to have multiple Executors in case something happens to your first choice, for example they pass away before you or they lose mental capacity.
As with the beneficiaries, you will need to provide the contact details for your Executor(s).
5). Who will you appoint as guardians to your children?
If you have children who are under 18 years of age, having a Will is the ideal way to make provisions for them in the future, including appointing a legal guardian for them. A Will can also dictate how you wish them to inherit their share of your estate; whether this is placed for them in Trust which they can only access after reaching a certain age, for example.
6). Do you wish to exclude someone from your Will?
Disputes can easily arise between families after the passing of a loved one if one party feels they have been unnecessarily or unjustly excluded from a Will. In order to minimise this risk you can write a Letter of Wishes to accompany your Will, which can explain the reasons behind your decisions in your Will.
7). Funeral wishes
As well as confirming these important matters, you can also specify any other wishes, including details about your funeral.
8). Should you make an LPA as well?
While writing your Will, we would also recommend that you consider writing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). There are two different varieties of LPA:
- Health and care decisions – this LPA includes all decision relating to your health and social care should you lose mental capacity to make these decisions yourself. Your attorney would make decisions for you regarding where you will live, your day to day care and medical treatment.
- Financial decisions – your attorney under this type of LPA would make decisions relating to your finances, including sale of property, arrangements for investment, cash withdrawals and payment of bills.
Without an LPA in place, if you do lose mental capacity then your loved ones would need to endure the timely and costly process of applying to the Court of Protection to obtain control over your assets.
Jane concludes, “Having these documents in place is of paramount importance to ensure that your wishes are heard and that your loved ones are as protected as they can be. Dying without a Will means that the rules of intestacy would apply, which could leave your family without financial means for the future. We can offer you expert and friendly advice tailored to your own situation so you can rest assured that your family will be looked after.”
This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.