There are times when doing things by the book and getting the legal necessities right may be imperative.
One of those times is making a Will – unless it is done correctly, you risk misunderstanding, misinterpretation or even a complete failure upon your death of your last wishes being carried out.
One of the major problems faced by many people, however, is that the legal jargon and terminology involved in writing a Will can be bewildering. Plus, there is also a common misconception that making a Will needs help from a solicitor – which may be expensive.
The good news is that Will writing services are available from fully qualified professionals who provide the Will in a language that is easy to understand – and at a cost-effective price. For example, at Over50choices, we offer a fixed fee Will writing service costing £90.00 (as at January 2018), which includes additional legal service benefits too. You can find out more by clicking here.
The importance of making a Will
There are many reasons why it is essential to make a Will:
- if you die without making a Will, your situation is described as intestate and legal rules apply to the way in which your property, possessions and money is distributed – in ways which you might not have wished;
- if you are unmarried or have not registered a civil partnership, your partner is unable to inherit any of your estate unless you have specified it in your Will;
- similarly, if you have children, your Will determines precisely what financial arrangements are made for them following your death;
- by writing a Will with the appropriate professional advice, you may be able to reduce the tax liabilities on the legacy your leave;
- if your circumstances change – you separate, divorce or remarry, for example – these need to be reflected in any Will you have written.
Citizens Advice points out that you do not need to instruct a solicitor to write your will – you may do it yourself.
Nevertheless, unless making a Will is especially straightforward, the same source recommends that a qualified professional helps ensure that it is legally correct and free from the risk of misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
The government website, for example, sets out the minimum legal requirements for your Will to be valid:
- you must be at least 18 years of age;
- the Will must be made voluntarily;
- you must be of sound mind;
- your Will must be made in writing;
- the Will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses (both of whom are at least 18 years of age); and
- those two witnesses must have signed your Will in your presence.
When you need professional advice
The government website also suggests that professional advice in making a Will is likely to be essential in some situations, such as complications involving:
- your sharing property with someone who is not your spouse or registered civil partner;
- your wish to leave property or money to a dependent who is unable to care for themselves;
- competing claims from other members of the family – such as children from a previous marriage or a former spouse;
- your ownership of property or your residence abroad; and
- your ownership of a business.
For inclusion in your Will
Every Will is different and needs to reflect your particular, individual wishes. Typically, however, when making a Will, you aim to address the following issues:
- provide a statement of all the property, possessions and money you own – including homes, building society and bank accounts, savings, pensions, and securities (stocks and shares);
- spell out precisely who you want to benefit from your estate – such as to whom you wish to leave your property, possessions and money, including any charitable donations or bequests;
- make special provision for the care of any children less than 18 years of age; and
- identify the executors of your Will – those who are responsible for managing your estate and ensuring that the wishes expressed in your Will are realised.
Your Will is an important document, and its safekeeping is essential. If you wish to keep it at home, for example, ensure that it is in a secure place – preferably with other relevant documents such as birth and marriage certificates, title deeds or share certificates.
As with all of these valuable documents, of course, you may prefer that they are held for safekeeping at your bank or by your solicitor.
For a flat fee of just £20, you may also deposit your Will with the Probate Service.
However and wherever you decide to keep your Will, make sure to let your executors know where it is – preferably in writing.
Finally, never keep your Will in a safety deposit box at the bank. This is likely to leave your executors in a Catch 22 situation: after your death, the bank is unable to open the safety deposit box until the executor is awarded probate (the court’s permission to manage your affairs), but probate is not going to be granted in the absence of the Will.
In short, always ensure that your executor will be able to access your Will without the need for probate.
Powers of Attorney
In addition to making a Will, you might also want to consider granting a Power of Attorney (POA) to someone who is then legally authorised to look after and manage your affairs – if you are incapacitated through illness, for instance, or are planning to be out of the country for a long time.
This might be an Ordinary Power of Attorney, which is valid for a specified period, or a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), granting indefinite authority either to make decisions concerning your health and welfare or the management of your property and financial affairs.
The typical cost of an LPA drawn up by our experts is £599. You can find out more by calling 03332 406895.