Have you given any considerations as to what may happen to your assets or children should you die? You probably have to some extent and may have even expressed these wishes with loved ones. However, without a legally binding document to portray this, your wishes, should something happen, may not be executed. If you’re yet to write a Will, you wouldn’t be alone, 2/3 of the population don’t have one. But really, we all should.
We talk to Sterling Trust Corporation about the process of Will writing, what you could/should include and why you really need one.
First off, what is a Will?
A Will is a legal document which outlines your final wishes, ensuring that your money, property and belongings (collectively referred to as your estate) are dealt with in the way that you would want and are inherited by those you would want to benefit.
When should you write a Will?
Everyone over the age of 18 should be considering writing their Will. Your Will needs to be kept under review and kept up to date. Situations which might lead to you updating your Will might include moving home, getting married or divorced, having children, the death of a loved one, inheriting money for example.
A carefully written Will can also be used to protect your assets from costs such as Inheritance Tax, as well as protecting your assets in the event of divorce or bankruptcy of a beneficiary. It can also be used to benefit a vulnerable or disabled beneficiary, without impacting upon their entitlement to means tested benefits. It also enables you to disinherit anyone you wouldn’t want to benefit, such as estranged child.
What should your Will include?
Beneficiaries – these are the people you choose to inherit your money, property and belongings. This could be a specified item or property, a fixed sum or a lump sum of money. You may choose to defer their inheritance until a certain age, or perhaps give them a benefit for a fixed period under a Trust structure.
Guardians – these are the people you appoint in your Will to look after your children. They will have all the same rights and responsibilities as if though they were the parents.
Funeral Wishes – You can include details of your funeral wishes in your Will or a letter accompanying your Will, which can then be followed by your executors.
In addition, with the prevalence of the internet and things like online accounts, such as Facebook and Instagram; you may want to record what is to happen to these if something were to happen to you.
What is the role of executors?
Executors are the people you appoint in your Will to sort everything and to carry out your wishes. They will need to collect in your money and belongings, pay any outstanding debts, and pay the inheritance to your beneficiaries. This is known as estate administration, which can be a daunting process as it includes legal, financial and taxation matters that need to be managed properly. It is recommended to have at least 2 executors, but not more than 4.
How do you ‘get’ a Will? What makes a Will legal?
You can write a Will yourself, using a pack from a stationer for example; though we would advise caution here. For a Will to be valid it does need to follow a strict legal process and so professional help may be preferred to ensure that your wishes will be carried out properly when the time comes. You can choose to use a professional, such as a solicitor or a professional Will Writer, details of the latter can be found listed with the Institute of Professional Will writers or the Society of Will Writers. You can normally expect to pay somewhere between £100 to £200 for a straightforward Will. There are also many online options available, such as Farewill.
What do I do once a Will has been created? Where is it stored? Should you tell anyone about it?
Once your Will has been made and has been signed and witnessed in accordance with the Law, then it needs to be kept somewhere safe and out of harms way. If you have chosen to use a professional, then they will likely be able to provide you with secure storage. You can register your Will on the National Will register, this ensures that your final Will is followed when the time comes and alerts people to the fact that the Will exists. Although you do not have to, it would be advisable to let your executors know that you have appointed them.
What happens if I don’t have a Will?
Worryingly, only 1/3 of the adult population has made a Will. The Laws surrounding Wills is a product of the 19th century and so is out of date and in desperate need of modernisation. If you die without leaving a valid Will, then the Law will dictate what is to happen to your estate, this law dates back to 1925 and is not as flexible as it needs to be. It does not include cohabitees or step-children for example and if you want them to benefit, they won’t without a valid Will. In the absence of a Will, the law will appoint administrators rather than executors and these may well be people you wouldn’t have chosen. It can also cause delays and added complications when administering the estates.
If you’re interested in having a conversation about creating your Will, you can contact the team at Sterling Trust Corporation on 0330 025 0137.