Will Writing

The majority of us avoid writing a will as we usually do not know how to do so or we consider that we do not have enough possessions to warrant it or we do not really appreciate the importance of writing a will. Having a will means that you can make sure that your property and possessions are left to those you wish them left to.

Moreover, having a will in place removes the burden of your family sorting out your affairs and ensures your peace of mind.

Points for consideration

  • Who will inherit your money and possessions after you die?
  • That your children are looked after you die
  • That your partner is looked after regardless of whether you are married or not and they inherit everything in line with your wishes

How you would like your funeral conducted

  • What happens to any family pets
  • Charity donations?
  • Where you would like any personal or sentimental items to go such as investments, property, a watch or ring.
  • Whether you wish to donate your body or organs to medical research.

Let someone know

Please remember that once you have a Will in place, it is important to let someone you trust know where it is and don't forget to update it if your circumstances change.

If you don't have a Will, the law will dictate how your money, property and possessions (your estate) are distributed, regardless of your wishes. Writing a Will and having it in place will ensure the process of dealing with your estate is straightforward and help your family carry out your wishes.

Why is it important to have a Will?

  • It ensures your belongings are passed on in line with your wishes without delay or argument
  • Unmarried partners and partners who have not registered a civil partnership can not inherit from each other if a will is not in place, so the surviving partner may face financial difficulties
  • Provision may not be made for Children if both parents die.
  • Children from former marriages may not be provided for if you have remarried or registered into a civil partnership, unless detailed in a Will
  • It ensures your belongings are passed on in line with your wishes without delay or argument
  • Eases the burden on loved ones

  • Your wishes will not be taken into account unless documented in a properly executed Will, regardless of any change in circumstances
  • Without a Will, property and possessions belonging to someone with no living relatives may go to the Crown.
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Depending on the value of the estate, married partners or those registered into a civil partnership may not automatically inherit the whole estate if a Will is not in place. The law prescribes what a surviving partner can receive, known as statutory legacy and is dependent on the whether the deceased has any surviving children or relatives

Preparing a Will

It is possible to Write a Will yourself however this is only really advisable if the Will is going to be straightforward. You will need to ensure there are no errors, everything is included and that the will is legally valid, so it may be worthwhile getting a solicitor to check it for you as any mistakes after your death could lead to considerable legal costs and delays.

Here are some common mistakes that people make when writing a Will:

  • Not being aware of the formal requirements needed to the Will legally valid
  • Not taking into account all of the money and possessions
  • Failing to take into account the fact that a beneficiary may die before you
  • Not updating the Will in line with a change in circumstances
  • Failing to have any updates or alterations signed and witnessed making the alterations invalid
  • Failing to take into account the affect a marriage, civil partnership, divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership can have on a Will
  • Being unaware of the rules that enable dependants to claim from the estate and overturn the Will, it they do not believe they have been adequately provided for
  • Books are available that offer guidance on Will Writing in addition to information and help on the internet.

Using a solicitor

Using a solicitor will help you ensure that your Will is legally valid and that all your wishes are accounted for. They will charge for drawing up or checking a Will, the cost of which should be outlined and agreed with your before they begin the work.

A solicitor is advisable if you expect the Will to be complicated in any way. For example:

  • You share your property with someone who is not your married or civil partner
  • You wish to make provision for a dependent who is unable to care for themselves
  • There are additional family members who may make a claim on the Will, e.g. a second wife or children from a previous marriage
  • Your permanent home is not in the UK, or you are a resident in the UK but have a property abroad
  • There is a business involved

Other Will writing services

Will writing services are available however it is worth noting that these companies are not regulated by the Law Society, so there are few safeguards in place should things do go wrong. Companies that belong to the Institute of Professional Will Writers however must follow a code of practise that covers the training and assessment of will writers and a complaints and conciliation procedure is in place to help you if there are any problems.

Detaills of the code and of companies belonging to the Institute of Professional Will Writers can be found on www.ipw.org.uk

Probate

When a person dies, someone is required to deal with or 'administer' their estate. This includes collecting all of their money, property and possessions, paying off any outstanding debts and distributing what is left to the beneficiaries. Probate is the Court's authority, giving a person or persons permission to do this. A document called a Grant of representation, is issued by the Probate Service, confirming that they have the Authority to administer the deceased's estate.

If there is a Will in place

If the deceased has left a Will, the executor(s) if named Will need to apply for a 'grant of probate' from the Probate registry. This will give them the authority to administer the deceased's estate. It allows them to show asset holders that they have the authority to access any funds, sort out any finances and collect and distribute money, possessions and property as outlined in the Will.

If there is no Will

If there is no Will in place, a close relative of the deceased can apply for a 'grant of letters administration' from the Probate Registry. In a similar way to the 'grant of probate', the 'grant of letters of administration' is a legal document that confirms the administrator(s) authority to deal with the deceased's estate.

Is a grant of probate / letters of administration always needed?

A grant of probate or a grant of letters of administration is almost always needed if the deceased leaves one or more of the following:

  • Stocks or shares
  • Certain insurance policies
  • Property or land either held in their own name or as 'tenants in common'
  • A grant may not be needed if:
  • The deceased has left less than 5,000
  • The person who has died owned everything jointly with someone else and everything automatically passes on to the joint owner
  • To understand whether the assets can be obtained without a grant, the executor or administrator would need to right to the various companies informing them of the death, enclosing a photocopy of the death certificate (and will if there is one)

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