The importance of writing a will

Wills are crucial to protect our loved one’s financial future and if you haven’t made one, contact the Wills, Trust and Probate team at Foys Solicitors.

Understandably, as many of us tackle life on a week to week basis, we spare little time for any future planning. This may be the reason why research carried out in 2018 by Royal London found that 54% of adults in the UK didn’t have a Will.

The truth is many of us work hard to protect and provide for our loved ones, and writing a Will can ensure this continues after we are gone. In this article, our Wills, Trust and Probate team at Foys Solicitors aims to discuss the importance of a Will and essential things to consider when writing a Will.

Why is a Will important?

Here are some of the key reasons why making a Will can be one of the most important things you ever do:

1. It makes sure your assets are distributed the way you want

By creating a Will, you ensure that your estate is distributed in line with your wishes to the people you love the most when you die. This is a vital part of estate planning. Estate planning refers to how you would like your estate – your property, money, financial and personal assets that you’ve worked all your life for – distributed after your death. In turn, this can make it easier for your loved ones to inherit and treasure your legacy during this challenging period. A Will can also allow you to voice any wishes you would like fulfilled after you’re gone.

2. Without a Will everything you own will be shared out in a way defined by law

At Foys, our solicitors have seen the devastating effects of what happens when somebody dies without a Will and relatives in mourning have no say on how the deceased’s assets are distributed. During this tough period, the Rules of Intestacy apply, meaning that people you may not have wanted to receive any part of your estate could end up with potentially all of it. According to these rules, only the deceased’s married or civil partner, children (whether they were within the individual’s care or not) and other close relatives can inherit from the estate. Partners who were not married cannot inherit through this process. Furthermore, all personal belongings, along with the first £250,000 of the estate and half the remaining estate, are inherited by the closest living married or civil partner. The remaining estate would be distributed among other living relatives including children.

The risk of not drafting a Will could disinherit the people your love dearly or discontinue the support you have been giving to charitable causes that are close to your heart. Having a Will drafted by our team of professional solicitors at Foys can make sure that you avoid this outcome and help you to provide suitably for those you cherish the most.

3. A Will can help you reduce Inheritance Tax

Inheritance tax is a tax on the estate of the deceased. However, you don’t have to pay this if the estate is valued below £325,000. Any assets passed on to your spouse, civil partner or a charity are also exempt from this tax. If you give your home away to your children (including stepchildren adopted and fostered) or grandchildren, this threshold increases to £475,000. The standard rate of Inheritance Tax is 40% and is charged on everything above the threshold.

4. In some instances, time is of the essence

There’s no set time to write a will, with most people assuming they’re going to do it later in life. However, if you have a family, have a lot of assets or are in unstable health, it is best to do it sooner rather than later.

When writing a Will, it is imperative that you have mental capacity, meaning the ability to make rational decisions in your best interest. For those who have a form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s and haven’t written a Will, at some point, you may lose capacity and could therefore legally be unable to write one. Writing a Will as soon as possible is vital for people with neurodegenerative conditions to ensure their future wishes are carried out. For more information, check out this Protection of the elderly service page.

Before writing a Will

Before discussing with our solicitors about your Will, it is vital to make a list of the following items:

1. All the assets you have

List all the money, property, investments that you have. If you have property in a country where they do not recognise the freedom of testation, our solicitors will advise if you need to make a foreign Will to ensure that the property will go to your beneficiaries.

2. Decide who are your beneficiaries

Most people naturally think of the immediate family members including:

  • Your spouse
  • Your children whom you provide for
  • Anyone whom you have been a guardian for, such as a foster or stepchild
  • Anyone else you were providing for
  • Extended family or friends

Nowadays, divorce and re-marry are common occurrences so it is worth to consider all possibilities.

In addition, although you’re at liberty to include or exclude anyone in your Will, there are a few people whom you must provide for under the Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975. If you wish to leave someone out, be aware that they may challenge your Will after you have gone. Therefore, it is best to contact our specialist team at Foys and make sure your Will is safe from any legal challenges.

3. Choose your executors

An executor is a person who is legally responsible for ensuring your Will is followed. The executor must be at least 18, trustworthy, and can be one of the beneficiaries (like your spouse or one of your children). It is wise to choose more than one executor just in case one of them is unable to perform their duties.

Sometimes relationships can break down between an executor and the beneficiaries to the extent that an estate cannot be properly administered. To avoid future complications, you can choose a solicitor to be an executor instead. By placing your executive trust in our Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors at Foys, you can rest easy in the knowledge your estate is in safe hands.

The contents of the Will

A Will should contain several key elements:

  • Who you are, describing enough personal information to certify it is your Will.
  • The names of your beneficiaries (these can be people, charities or institutions).
  • The name of a guardian for children whom you care for independently (if they are under 18).
  • Your assets and their values.
  • How you would like your assets distributed after you’re gone.

In addition, you may also wish to include your funeral preferences (whether you want to be buried or cremated for example), trusts that you might have put aside for your children or sentimental items such as letters or messages you wish to give to specific family members.

Requirements for a valid Will

For a Will to be valid, it must be:

  • Made by you (who is 18 years old or over)
  • Made by you voluntarily and without pressure from any other person
  • You are of sound mind, meaning you are fully aware of the nature of the document being written or signed, aware of the property and the identify of your beneficiaries
  • You create the Will in writing
  • The Will is signed by you in the presence of two witnesses who are over 18
  • The Will is signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of you after you have signed it

Be aware that a witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a Will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner or civil partner of a beneficiary), the Will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the Will.

If our solicitors help you to create your Will, we can act as witnesses to the signing of the Will and make sure all the legality is covered.

Carrying out your Will after you pass away

After you pass away, your executor will locate the latest Will and calculate the total value of your assets – if the values exceed £15,000, then the executor will apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate – a legal document which confirms the executor has the authority to manage your assets or administer the estate in legal terms.

With the Grant of Probate, your executor can now access your bank accounts, sell property, submit tax returns and pay tax liabilities. After that, the executor can start to distribute your estate to the beneficiaries stated in your Will.

It must be noted that administering an estate involves a significant amount of work, so the executor is often busy. During this stressful time, it may be worth getting our solicitors to assist, making sure that the probate process is managed efficiently and correctly.

Expert advice from our Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors

Writing a Will can be one of the most important things you do to protect your family and loved one’s future. To help you through this process, we offer a FREE initial consultation so our Will, Probate and Trust team can help you create a well-considered and error-free Will that truly reflects your wishes.

Our services include:

  • Preparing your Will
  • Acting as witnesses to the signing of the Will
  • Preparing and Advising Trust Deeds
  • Obtaining Grant of Probate/ Letters of Administration
  • Distribution of a deceased’s estate

To find out more about how we can help with your needs, call your local Foys Solicitors office today or get in touch through our Online Form.

Please note that although we may use the word solicitor, your case could be carried out by a legal advisor, legal executive or paralegal depending on the nature of the case.

You may also be interested in:

This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Enquire About Our Services Today

Book an initial FREE consultation or to find out more about our personal and business law services

Call the office nearest to you and speak to one of our professional specialists or fill out the form below