As a solicitor who specialises in advising clients when they are preparing a Will, but also on the administration of estates after people have died, I have a unique view on what a good Will looks like and – importantly how well it will work after your death.
Here are a few things you should be thinking about before you come to see us to discuss preparing a new Will: –
These are the people who administer your estate (notifying organisations that you have died, completing legal requirements such as Inheritance Tax Returns and applying for Probate, distributing your estate etc.) You might have some initial thoughts on who you would like to act but have you thought about the following:
- Do your chosen Executors know each other and get along well? If not, then its best to think again.
- How old are your Executors? Are they likely to die before you? If so, have you provided for a back-up Executor/Executors?
- Will they understand the process and be happy to do it? Being an Executor can be a big responsibility, not everyone will want to do this.
- Are they receiving a gift under your Will? As the role of Executor can be very time consuming and complicated, it can be a nice thank you to leave your Executor/s a gift (of course this will not apply if you are appointing a professional executor).
Gifts & Legacies
If you are thinking of leaving specific items or cash legacies, you should consider the following:
- How practical is it to get the specific item to the recipient? Who is going to pay for the costs of getting it to them? Do they have space for it? Do they want it?
- Can you identify the items that you have mentioned in your Will – of course you knew what you meant when you were writing your Will -but will your Executors understand your wishes? It can be a great idea to leave a side letter alongside the Will to give any extra tips to your Executors to help make sure they distribute the correct assets. You could even leave photographs of each item.
- If you are leaving cash gifts – if the beneficiary is under 18 have you given your Executors, the option to pay the gift to their parent or guardian? This can mean that smaller cash gifts avoid being held in Trusts for lengthy periods of time – this option is not right for everyone, but it is worth considering.
- Have you given addresses for your beneficiaries? It’s a great idea to keep an up-to-date list alongside your Will ensuring that you have the right contact details for any beneficiaries – this is particularly important if your Executors don’t personally know the beneficiaries.
A lot of clients will leave their home as part of their residuary estate to their children, again quite often one (or more) of the children are still living in the home with their parents (even as adults). When preparing your Will, you need to consider: –
- What happens when you die to the child who remains living at home? Do you need to include any provision to protect their occupancy? This will require detailed legal advice and careful Inheritance Tax consideration.
- If you intend for the property to be sold – do you need to make this clear in the Will in case one or more of your children want to try and keep the property or buy their siblings out. It can cause significant arguments, and delays, if one of the children want to “buy out” their siblings from a family home. If you have any concerns about this, you can leave more specific instructions for how your home should be dealt with.
- Have you checked in whose name the property is registered? It is surprising how many times, when we come to administer an estate it is discovered that the house is still registered in the name of someone who died several years ago and this can result in multiple tax returns and Probate applications- made all the more difficult because their date of death information will not be easily available.
You are not required to leave funeral wishes in your Will however, from experience, I can say that having funeral wishes written down clearly in a Will can give your family/friends a real sense of relief – they know what your wishes are and feel that they are making the right decisions for you.
In the Will itself I tend to keep things straightforward- do you want to be buried or cremated? However, a letter of wishes setting out more information can be a great help to your loved ones when planning your funeral.
There are other matters which require careful consideration when preparing a Will – instructing a solicitor to prepare your Will for you gives you the best chance of considering all the important matters.
If you would like further information about preparing a Will then please do contact Jessica William, an Associate Solicitor in our Private Client department or another member of our Private Client team who would be happy to help.