Writing a Will
Wills are very important in protecting your family and possessions when you die. If you do not make one then the Rules of Intestacy will decide what happens to your estate, meaning that even if you are married and have children, there is no guarantee that they receive your assets. It is therefore essential that you make a will so you know exactly who receives what, leaving them protected when you die.
As well as dealing with your possessions, a will also details how you want your funeral to be carried out, who will look after your children, who will perform the requests of your will (the executor) and what would happen if any of your beneficiaries died before you.
As there are a significant number of details which need to be very clear and concise, you should hire a solicitor. They can guide you to avoid any possible pitfalls and ensure that everything you want to happen when you die is obvious to the executor. Without help, people often make a mistake or the lack of clarity means that their will is invalid. Some of the biggest pitfalls people encounter when making a will without help is when there is a business or property outside of England and Wales involved.
Writing a will
It is essential when writing your will that everything is explained clearly and in enough detail, but because many wills are not very straightforward, it is much safer to hire a solicitor to ensure there are no mistakes. This is especially true if you have multiple beneficiaries, properties overseas (which can cause tax issues), live abroad primarily or share a property with someone who is not your husband, wife or civil partner, because it could be easy to end up with disputes when you die.
In your will you need to explain who you want to benefit from it, and how. To ensure your will is valid then you must abide by a set of rules. You must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be of a sound frame of mind
- Create it in writing
- Sign it in front of two witnesses aged 18 and above, who will also need to sign it.
- Write it voluntarily
Updating a will
It is necessary to update your will if your circumstances change, such as a marriage/civil partnership, a divorce, having children/more relatives, or purchasing a new property or expensive item such as a car.
Every five years you should review your will to ensure it is up to date, and if any changes are needed then you need to make an official alteration, which is a codicil. There is no limit to the number of codicils that you can make. Should there be any major changes required then you need to completely redo your will, with an explanation that it cancels all previous wills (which are to be physically destroyed).
Your executor is responsible for fulfilling the wishes of your will, and can be more than one person. If they are happy to have this role, it is suggested that you ask your solicitor to be your executor or a family member or friend who is financially adept. This provides you with confidence that your will is in capable hands.