If you aren’t a Cheshire Will solicitor you may not know where to start with making your Will. In this blog, we look at how to make a Will, something that we should all do to protect our loved ones.
Why you should make a Will
It is easy to keep putting off making a Will because you have too much to do or you aren’t sure what to put in your Will but a Will is something that we should all have, whatever our age, state of health, or personal or financial circumstances.
If you die without making a Will then you or they die ‘intestate’. The law says where your money or estate goes to. The list of beneficiaries is set out in a statute and cannot be changed to suit your family circumstances or to do what you would have wanted if you had made a Will during your lifetime. For example, you may not have wanted the majority of your estate to go to a third wife but instead to a cousin that you were close to and who had been there for you throughout your life whilst your third marriage was of short duration. Alternatively, you may want to leave your estate to your grandchildren, skipping a generation and not leaving your money to your children.
What do I need to make a Will?
You don’t need anything to take the first step of making a Will as a Will solicitor can either talk you through the information that they need to prepare the Will for you or if you prefer, they can send you a Will questionnaire for you to complete.
The main things that a Will solicitor needs to know to advise you on your Will and prepare it for you are:
- Roughly how much is your estate worth – you don’t need to get anything valued as all your Will solicitor needs is a very approximate ballpark figure so they know if inheritance tax will be relevant to your estate
- Whether all of your assets are in the UK – if you own property overseas then you may need another Will to cover your overseas-based property
- Whether any of your assets are jointly owned – if you own property jointly, for example, with a wife, husband, or civil partner, then your share in the property may pass outside of your Will unless you sever the joint tenancy and convert it to a tenancy in common
- Whether you have any dependants – a dependant could be a former husband or wife who is receiving spousal maintenance from you, a child receiving child support, or an adult child who is financially reliant on you, or your cohabitee or partner. Whilst you can leave your estate to whom you want as there is no legal requirement to leave all or a share of your estate to your dependants or family members, a Will solicitor can advise you on the prospects of a dependant trying to contest your Will and how to reduce the risk that your Will might be contested
- Whether you have any children or planned beneficiaries under the age of eighteen – if you do then you may want to consider the appointment of testamentary guardians in your Will for your children. You will also need to consider leaving money in trust for your children or minor beneficiaries
- The planned executors of your Will and beneficiaries- if you haven’t made any final decisions about your choice of executors (the people named in your Will as responsible for administering and distributing your estate) then don’t worry as your Will solicitor can discuss your options, including the appointment of family members, your private client solicitor or another professional as executor. When it comes to beneficiaries, your Will solicitor can talk you through your options and make sure that your Will is as ‘future proofed’ as possible so that if, for example, you want to leave all your estate to your husband or wife or a share of your estate to an older sibling there are ‘substitution gifts’ in your Will. That means that if your spouse predeceases you their legacy is shared (for example, between your children or in the case of your sibling between your nephews and nieces). Alternatively, the gift can fall back into your estate and form part of the legacy to your residuary beneficiary or beneficiaries
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When to make a Will
Will solicitors say that it is never too early to make a Will or, if you have an existing Will, it is equally important to make sure that the Will is up to date and still reflects your circumstances and wishes.
At any important life event, you should consider making or changing your Will. Life events include:
- Buying your first house – whether on your own or jointly with a partner
- When you get engaged to marry or enter a civil partnership
- When you sign a prenuptial agreement
- When you have children or adopt a child
- If you separate or divorce from a husband, wife, or partner
- If you form a new relationship or remarry
- If you suffer from ill health
- On retirement
- If you receive a legacy or inheritance.
There are many other scenarios when you should consider making or changing your Will, such as the death of a beneficiary or an executor to your Will. Making a Will can be a very positive experience for you because:
- It makes you feel that you have taken steps to protect family members and loved ones
- You can say whom you would like to administer your estate through the appointment of executors of your Will
- You can safeguard young children with the appointment of a testamentary guardian
- You can use your Will and estate planning to minimise your estate’s liability to inheritance tax.
How to make a Will
The easiest way to make a Will or to change an existing Will is to speak to an experienced private client and Will solicitor. They can look at your goals and objectives and work out how best to achieve them. This may include:
- Lifetime gifting
- Inheritance tax planning
- Lifetime trusts
- Trusts created in your Will and the flexibility and guidance issued to your trustees with discretionary trusts
- The structure of legacies and the disposal of your residuary estate
- Contingency legacies so, for example, a grandchild or children, will receive a legacy instead of their parent if their parent sadly passes away before you do so. Carefully drafted contingency legacies mean that your Will doesn’t have to keep being rewritten on the birth of a new grandchild
- How to try and ensure that the Will isn’t contested by a dependant leading to litigation against your estate. This can be achieved by carefully assessing what, if any, dependency claims can be brought against your estate and how to minimise the risk of a successful claim
How long does it take to make a Will?
The role of a private client and Will solicitor is to make the Will process as simple for you as possible. It is possible to make a Will in a matter of hours but you may, depending on your family circumstances, want to reflect on private client and Will advice before finalising your Will.
Your Will isn’t effective until it is executed. That involves your signing your Will witnessed by two witnesses. The best way to make a Will is to take the step of picking up the phone and speaking to a friendly and approachable private client and Will solicitor about your options so that you can achieve a well-drafted Will that protects your family and gives you peace of mind.