Making a Will is important because it allows you to specify exactly who should benefit under your Will and who should receive assets after your death. If you make a Will, you can avoid family disputes. People can't argue about who Granny actually meant to leave the painting to if Granny has set out in her Will, who should benefit. Making a Will makes things much simpler for your family and enables them to deal more easily and more efficiently with things after you've died.
If you pass away without a valid Will, then you are known as dying intestate. Your estate will then pass in accordance with the intestacy rules which dictate who is to inherit your estate and how much. People assume that your spouse will inherit your estate under the intestacy rules but this isn't the case. Your spouse will only inherit if you have no children or if your estate is below a fixed amount set out in the intestacy rules.
If that's not the case, then distant relatives may inherit, which may not be what you want. An unmarried partner will also not receive anything under the intestacy rules.
When you make a Will, there are certain things that you need to think about. One of the most important of these is who your Executor should be. The Executor should be a person you trust because you are giving them the responsibility for making sure that your wishes that are set out in the Will of properly carried out. Obviously, you need to set out who you want your assets to pass to.
Most people will say that they want their assets to pass to their spouse or to their children, but there may also be smaller legacies that you wish to leave to people. For example, to god-children, to friends or to charity. And there may also be a particular items which you own which you'd like to give to somebody, an engagement ring or a watch.
If you have children who are under the age of 18, it's a good idea to appoint guardians. Guardians are the people who will be responsible for looking after your children and their welfare until they reach the age of 18. In the event of a family disaster where you are survived neither by your spouse nor by your children, you may want to make provision as to who should inherit at that point.
The intestacy rules would pass assets to more distant relatives, but you may prefer that you'd leave them instead to friends or to charity.
Unless you're a serviceman or in active combat, you must be over the age of 18 years and have the mental capacity to make a Will. Mental capacity means you must understand the nature and effect of your Will and decide how you want your estate to be distributed. Your Will must be in writing and it must be signed by you and witnessed by two independent witnesses who must also be over the age of 18 years old.
If your witnesses are your beneficiaries, your Will will still be valid, but they will be unable to inherit under your Will. It is important to keep your original Will safe and make sure it can be easily located after your death.
It's important to review your Will if your personal circumstances change. This may include if you enter into a marriage or civil partnership, your Will will be automatically revoked unless it is made in contemplation of marriage or civil partnership to that person. Similarly, if you get divorced, you may need to update your Will to reflect this. Your ex-spouse will still be an executor under your Will, but they will not be able to benefit under your Will.
Other reasons may include the birth of grandchildren, purchase of a new property, or if your assets change significantly. If these don't apply, we usually recommend that you review your Will every five years.
There are different ways of leaving money to charities in your Will. You can leave a fixed legacy of a particular amount, a particular asset, or a percentage of your residuary estate. There are tax benefits to leaving money to charity in your Will. First of all, the money that you leave to the charity will be free of inheritance tax.
And also, if you want to leave at least 10% of your net estate to charity, then you would benefit from the reduced inheritance tax rate of 36% rather than the normal 40%. We recommend that you seek legal advice if you are considering leaving money to charity in your Will to ensure that you maximize the benefits for your loved ones and for the charity.
Digital assets can include everything from actual online assets such as Bitcoin to social media profiles to online passwords.
It's very important to think about these things when you're making your Will. Specific assets can be left to individuals named in your Will as beneficiaries, but there are other things that you ought to think about as well.
We all know that passwords have to be kept safe, but what happens after you die? Your family need to collect your assets, and need to know what assets are. But if your laptop is password locked, can they actually get into it to find your information? Can they access your bank accounts to find out details and balances? You might want to consider whether you keep passwords as a list with your Will or make some specific reference in a Will to where those passwords can be found or accessed in order to make life as simple as possible for your family after your death.
Our partner solicitors Parker Bullen LLP, who offer a free face-to-face Will writing service for us, have answered your questions about Wills.