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Why make a will?
These days a lot of us are reluctant to talk about or plan for what will happen when we die, which is why two – thirds of the adult population have not written a Will. However, by making a properly drawn up Will, you can decide what will happen to your property and processions after your death, ensuring that your loved ones are provided for and that they have one less thing to worry about. Dying without a Will (or ‘Intestate’ to use the legal term) can mean a lot of anxiety for those left behind. The Law (under Administration of Estate Act) ensures that spouses and children are provided for where possible from whatever money, property or possessions a person leaves when they die (the ‘Estate’) once any debts have been settled but this can take time to sort out, during which your loved ones may not be sure where they stand. Also, it is worth knowing that if you and your partner are not married, the law views them as a friend and they may not receive any provision from your Estate, which could leave them in financial difficulty.
By making a Will, you can leave your property and other processions to whoever you choose (your ‘beneficiaries’), although, of course reasonable provision should be made for your dependants. Equally, you can specify how your assets are to be distributed. If you are an unmarried couple (whether it’s a same sex relationship), writing a Will ensures that your partner will be provided for after you have gone. If you are divorced, you can state in your Will whether you wish to leave anything to your former spouse. There are also a number of financial considerations that make writing a Will a sensible option. By making a Will, you can also choose the people who administer the terms of the Will (your Executors) and to give them useful administrative powers.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, parents are advised to write a Will in order to state who legal guardianship of their children should transfer to in the event of their death. It is advisable to obtain the person in question’s permission, but by making your wishes clear, you can be sure that your children won’t be raised by someone you would never have chosen yourself. If you have made a Will you should review the content on a regular basis as changes in circumstances might mean that a Will made several years ago is no longer appropriate. If you have checked your Will is up to date, then you can be sure that your wishes will be carried out when the time comes. If you have not made a Will, then you may be leaving matters to chance, or to the Law.
How do I make a Will?
There are several options available for making a Will: you can write your own, you can use a standard Will form from a reputable stationers, or you can consult an expert. You must, however, be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind (although there are special provisions for younger people serving in the armed forces). In fact, if your Estate is at all complicated – for example, if you own a property abroad, or a business, or if your Estate could be liable for Inheritance Tax – then it may be best to use the services of WDS Associates or a similar qualified professional.
WDS Associates will be able to advise you not only on matters directly concerning your Will, but also on other action that might be appropriate to protect your assets for the eventual use of your beneficiaries. For example, they will be able to advise on ‘Power of Attorney’, which is when you give a person of your choosing the power to carry out certain decisions on your behalf should you become physically or mentally incapable of looking after yourself or your affairs. Proper action taken in advance can prevent the loss of family assets.
A Do- it- Yourself Will may not be a recognised as legally binding because it may not have been drawn up or witnessed properly. Others may also put a different interpretation on words you have used – this could lead to confusion or misunderstanding about your wishes. Using WDS Associates to draw up your Will ensures everything is clear and unambiguous.
WDS Associates will also be able to advise you about any aspects of your proposed Will that may cause a problem. For instance, they can advise against attaching unreasonable conditions to bequests, conditions that could be challenged in the courts.
WDS Associates will meet you at a convenient time, date and location to suit. The cost of writing up a Will can vary and will depend on how complicated your affairs may be.
Can I make my own Will?
Anyone can make their own Will, although there are a number of potential pitfalls in doing so. Ambiguous wording for example may cause a problem for your family when attempting to interpret your intentions or in some cases may even render a Will invalid. There are also specific rules relating to the signature of the Will. It is certainly advisable therefore to seek advice from a specialist who will be able to ensure that your Will adequately reflects and achieves your wishes.
Writing your own Will give some protection and if constructed properly, it should be accepted as legally binding. Completing a Will form is also possible and is generally safer than attempting to write your own Will; there are now various computer programs that will assist you in writing your own Will. However, if you want to be absolutely certain that your Will conveys your wishes properly, then it is best to seek proper advice from WDS Associates as there are various legal formalities that must be followed to make a Will valid.
What should be included in my Will?
When drawing up your Will, you should consider the following questions. Beneficiaries are the people and / or Charities to whom you will give all or part of your Estate. An Executor is the person(s) or Trustee Company who will make sure your instructions in the Will are carried out. Who will look after my children? You will need to appoint a guardian for any children aged under 18.
Do I want to leave anyone out of my Will? If you decide to exclude someone from your Will, it is best if you outline your reasons for doing so by writing a letter of Omission. Keep in mind that the Law expects you to make adequate provision for anyone you are legally responsible. If you don’t make provision the Court may order that provision must be made out of the Estate.
Do I want to impose any conditions on a beneficiary’s right to receive a gift? Some conditions are allowable, and some are not. For example, you can state that a minor cannot receive their benefit until the age of 25. However you cannot prohibit a spouse from remarrying, and you cannot prohibit a child from marrying someone of a certain race or religion. Such conditions will be ignored, because they are regarded as offending ‘public policy’.
What funeral arrangements do I want?
Will I authorise or prohibit the use of my body for scientific or medical research?
What do I want to happen if my beneficiaries die before or with me?
What assets and property should be included in my Will?
What don’t I need to include in my Will?
All jointly owned assets automatically pass to the other person on death. Life insurance policies can be paid into your Estate to be distributed as part of your Will, or they can be paid directly to the nominated person, depending on the arrangement made when you took out the policy and the insurance company’s requirements. Superannuation monies can be included in your Will, but the superannuation fund does not have to abide by your wishes. Normally, their priority is to benefit direct dependants, and they will do this independently of the Will process. As superannuation is often one of our most valuable assets, it is important to know what will happen to this payment when you die.
A Power of Attorney (LPA) is a document that appoints someone (‘an attorney’) to help manage your property, money and financial affairs. Your attorney will be able to help you make decisions or make decisions on your behalf.
A trust is a legal arrangement where you give cash, property or investments to someone else so they can look after them for the benefit of a third person.
A trust can be a great way to cut the tax you’ll pay on your inheritance.
Your will lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death.
If you make a will you can also make sure you don’t pay more Inheritance Tax than you need to.
It’s not easy to think about planning for a funeral but taking a little time now can give you great peace of mind, ensuring that you can have the funeral you want without placing a burden on your loved ones.
When someone dies, you’ll need to get the legal right to deal with their property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’).
Following their death you may need to get a Grant of Probate. This is an official document giving you the right to deal with a deceased person’s estate.
Inheritance Tax is a tax on the estate of someone who’s died.
While only a small percentage of estates are large enough to incur Inheritance Tax, you mustn’t forget to factor this tax into your plans when you make your will.
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