The Importance of Making a Will
A Will is a legal document prepared to decide how you would like your estate, i.e. all of your assets including money, property and possessions, to be distributed after your death.
If you do not have a valid Will at the date of your death your estate will be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy. This could mean that your estate is not shared out in the way that you would have liked. For example, unmarried partners do not inherit under the intestacy rules. By making a Will you are able to name beneficiaries and ensure that no loved ones miss out, but also that your estate does not go to someone that you do not wish to benefit.
One of the main reasons people choose to make a Will is to save time, money and stress for their loved ones at what is already an upsetting time. Your Will sets out exactly what you would like to happen to your estate and who you would like to deal with it, i.e. who you have appointed as executors. Your executors may be family or friends, or could be a professional such as solicitors. Your Will can include instructions regarding your funeral to provide your executors with some guidance on your wishes.
In your Will you are also able to leave specific gifts such as cash legacies or specific items or property. These can be to individuals or organisations. This may be particularly important if, for example, you own a property in your sole name and live at the property with your unmarried partner and step-children. If you do not have a Will in place, they may lose their family home as they would not automatically be beneficiaries of your estate. Your Will can also make provision for who you would like to appoint as a guardian for any children you may have. If you do not have a Will, the decision would be made by the Court. You can also include instructions regarding who you would like to care for any pets that you may own at the date of your death.
By instructing a solicitor to prepare your Will they will also consider any inheritance tax implications. They may be able to suggest a particular way of drafting your Will to reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable and therefore potentially increase the amount ultimately received by your beneficiaries. The solicitor will also consider whether there are any ways to structure your Will that could benefit particular beneficiaries. For example, it may not be in the best interests of a beneficiary to receive a lump sum of money and therefore a discretionary trust may be considered. In this instance the money would be held by the trustees named in the Will and could be distributed to beneficiaries as and when necessary.
It is important to note that you are only able to make a Will if you have the requisite mental capacity. Many people intend to make a Will but do not get around to it. It is possible for your Will to be somewhat future-proofed by including back up provisions should something happen to your initial beneficiaries. However you can choose to update your Will at any time should your circumstances change and we would recommend reviewing your Will at least every couple of years. Should you wish to book an appointment to speak about putting a Will in place please do not hesitate to contact your local office.
If you need legal advice for any Wills, Trusts & Probate matter please contact our specialist team.