Wills

Wills

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that sets out your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children. If you die without a Will, those wishes may not be followed. Further, your heirs may be forced to spend additional time, money and emotional energy to settle your affairs after you’re gone.

Why you need a Will

It’s easy to make a Will – and it will save your family unnecessary distress at an already difficult time.

  • A Will makes it much easier for your family or friends to sort everything out when you die – without a Will the process can be more time consuming and stressful.

  • If you don’t write a Will, everything you own will be shared out in a standard way defined by the law – which isn’t always the way you might want.

  • A Will may help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that may be payable on your estate. For advice on this please seek independent advice from a tax specialist or alternatively we can introduce you to someone who can help.

  • Writing a Will is especially important if you have children or other family who depend on you financially, or if you want to leave something to people outside your immediate family.

Frequently asked questions

Below you will find the answers to any questions you may have regarding our products and services. If you need more details on anything or want to talk to a friendly member of our team, contact us directly.

If you don’t have a Will when you die, your money, property and possessions will be shared out according to the law instead of your wishes. This can mean they pass to someone you hadn’t intended – or that someone you want to pass things on to ends up with nothing.

  • When you die without leaving a will, the law decides who gets what and how much.
  • It doesn’t matter what your relationship with those people was like when you were alive.
  • By leaving a Will that says clearly who should get your property and money when you die, you can prevent unnecessary distress at an already difficult time for your family or friends.
  • Some parents have had to sue their own children to get a share of their partner’s estate when their unmarried partner dies.
  • The law says that in this situation the children get everything.

Dying without a valid Will is called intestacy or dying intestate.

The law about exactly who gets what is different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but there are some common problems wherever you live.

  • If you’re not married and not in a civil partnership, your partner is not legally entitled to anything when you die.
  • If you’re married, your husband or Wife might inherit most or all of your estate and your children might not get anything (except in Scotland). This is true even if you are separated but not if you’re divorced.
  • If you have children or grandchildren, how much they are legally entitled to will depend on where you live in the UK – but if you make a Will you can decide this yourself.
  • Any Inheritance Tax that your estate has to pay might be higher than it would be if you had made a Will.
  • If you die with no living close relatives, your whole estate will belong to the Crown or to the government. This law is called bona vacantia.

Note: any assets that you own jointly with someone will not pass under the intestacy rules but will pass by survivorship to the surviving joint owner.

But be careful, you need to own the asset as ‘joint tenants’ and not as ‘tenants in common’ for survivorship to apply.

Anyone aged 18 or above can be an executor of your will. There’s no rule against people named in your will as beneficiaries being your executors.

In fact this is very common.

Many people choose their spouse or civil partner or their children to be an executor. But that doesn’t mean they have to write them out of the will.

Up to four executors can act at a time, but they all have to act jointly so it might not be practical to appoint that many people.

It’s a good idea, though, to choose two executors in case one of them dies before you do.

For example, you might choose one family member and one professional, like a solicitor or accountant.

Professional executors tend to charge, but it can be helpful to have someone involved with specialist knowledge.

You can appoint substitute executors to cover the situation if your first choice dies before you.

If there’s someone in your family who you think will handle the job well, it can be a good idea to have them as an executor.

For example, it’s very common to name one of your children, a niece or nephew or an adult grandchild.

Make sure you ask if they’re happy to do the job before you write your will, though – if they say no, you’ll have to get your will changed.

Think carefully before choosing your husband, wife or partner as your only executor.

They’ll be dealing with your death, and by naming somebody else to be an executor with your husband, wife or partner, you can at least take the burden of the paperwork off their shoulders.

For example, you might choose one family member and one professional, like a solicitor or accountant.

Professional executors tend to charge, but it can be helpful to have someone involved with specialist knowledge.

You can appoint substitute executors to cover the situation if your first choice dies before you.

As a last resort, there’s a government official called the Public Trustee who will be your executor if there’s really nobody else who can do it.

The most common situation where the Public Trustee will step in is if your will leaves everything to one person and that person can’t act as executor himself or herself – for example, a child or an adult whose disability means they’re incapable of managing financial affairs.

Make sure you confirm your executor’s full name and address in your will – otherwise they might not be able to do their job, if they cannot be found

If your family is small and you want to leave everything to them, making your Will is fairly straightforward.

If your situation is more complicated – for example, if you have a second family or you want to leave money and gifts to lots of people – you’ll need to plan more carefully.

Either way, don’t put it off – make sure that what you leave behind Will go to the people you intended.

Step 1 – Make a plan

Start by thinking about what you want to leave to whom and then talk to your family – they might have some suggestions you haven’t thought of.

Once you have a plan look at the different options for making a Will.

Step 2 – Get in touch with us

There are a number of ways you can get a Will written.

The best option for you depends on how complicated your wishes are:

  • a simple Will – can cost between £144 and £240
  • a complex Will – can cost between £150 and £300. It may be more complex as you have been divorced and have children
  • a specialist Will – that involves trusts or oversea properties, or you want tax planning advice (we do not give advice in this area but can refer you to a specialist) – expect to pay a minimum of £500 to £600 according to Which?

The prices quoted above are for guidance only.

Get in touch and one of our expert advisors will take you through all your options available.

You can find out exactly who will inherit your property if you die without a will by using the online calculator on the GOV.UK website.

This covers variations in the rules for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The calculator uses some legal terms that might be unfamiliar, so here’s a quick guide to what they mean:

  • Remoter issue: grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on: your direct descendants in later generations than your children.
  • Per stirpes: Latin for ‘by branch’. This means that each branch of the family gets an equal share of your estate. For example, if you had three children, each of them would get a third of the total. But if one of your three children died before you, that child’s children would share their parent’s third of the estate between them.
  • Chattels: things you own, like furniture, jewellery, cars or books.

Your Will tells people two very important things:

  • Who should have your money, property and possessions when you die
  • Who will be in charge of organising your estate and following the instructions you leave in your will – this person is called your ‘executor’, and you can name more than one person if you want to

You can also use your will to tell people about any other wishes you have, like instructions for your burial or cremation.

Your executor will do their best to make sure your wishes are followed, as long as they don’t involve breaking the law.

It might not always be possible for your executors to carry out your instructions.

For example, a person you want to leave something to might die before you do, but if you have a Will there’s a better chance of things happening the way you want.

The person who sorts out your property when you die and carries out the instructions in your Will is called your executor. You can choose whoever you like to do this job (and it can be more than one person) – but it’s an important choice to get right.

Your executor takes on the job of carrying out the instructions you leave in your Will when you die.

It can be a complicated job even if your instructions and your property are quite simple – it’s not unusual for the process to take several months.

The job of an executor is sometimes difficult. For example, they might have to:

  • Decide when to sell your property so that the people who inherit the proceeds get the most money
  • Make sure the right amount of Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax gets paid

If you leave something to a person in your Will, they can still be your executor – but they can’t be one of your Will’s official witnesses.
Above all you must choose somebody you trust.

It’s going to be up to them to follow the instructions in your Will and to find fair solutions to any disagreements.

If your executor’s good at paperwork and managing legal issues it will be helpful.

And if you choose more than one executor, they might decide to divide up the work.

For example, if you appoint one of your children and a solicitor as your executors, they might decide that your child might be the best person to deal sensitively with other family members, while the solicitor handles the tax and legal work.

Choosing a solicitor as one of your executors makes a lot of sense, especially if sorting out your things is likely to be complicated – they’re experienced at the job and know their way around legal, tax and property issues.

If the financial side of your will is especially complicated, it could be a good idea to choose a bank or accountant as one of your executors.

Of course, these professional specialists will charge you for their work. This happens in one of two ways:

  • By sending a bill for their time when your things have all been sorted out
  • By taking a share of the total value of your estate – this will be written into your Will

Make sure you understand how your solicitor, bank or accountant will charge for being an executor and how much each option will cost before you commit yourself.

As a last resort, there’s a government official called the Public Trustee who will be your executor if there’s really nobody else who can do it.

The most common situation where the Public Trustee will step in is if your will leaves everything to one person and that person can’t act as executor himself or herself – for example, a child or an adult whose disability means they’re incapable of managing financial affairs.

Your will doesn’t have to be on special paper or use a lot of legal language.

A document is a valid Will as long as it:

  • Says how your estate should be shared out when you die.
  • Was made when you were able to make your own decisions and you weren’t put under pressure about who to leave things to.
  • Is signed and dated by you in the presence of two adult, independent witnesses, and then signed by the two witnesses in your presence – the witnesses can’t be people who are going to inherit anything from you (or their husband/wife or civil partner).

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