Getting around to writing your Will can be difficult. Most people don’t like to think about what will happen when they die, and it’s one of those tasks that feels easy to delay. Many people die without leaving a Will, which can cause a lot of stress for their loved ones. However, writing a Will is important, as it ensures that your wishes are honoured after death and that your estate is passed on in the manner you intended. Read more about the purpose of a Will.
Writing your Will doesn’t have to be complicated. In this blog we cover 10 things that you should consider when drafting your Will.
1. What assets do you have?
When writing your Will, you need to ensure that every aspect of your estate is accounted for. A best-practice first step is to make a comprehensive list of everything you own. This list will detail the contents of your estate, which will need to be administered after your death.
Your estate may be made up of:
- Property – this includes single or jointly owned property
- Bank accounts, Premium Bonds, shares, and ISAs – this includes jointly owned accounts
- Assets held in Trusts – for example, life insurance policies or a pension
- Personal belongings – this includes cars, jewellery, family heirlooms, and other valuables
- Debts and liabilities – as these will affect the final value of your estate, it’s important to include them
2. How to write your Will
You shoulder consider the different options for actually writing your Will. Drafting your Will yourself is a good option if you have a fairly simple estate and fewer beneficiaries. However, more complex estates, such as those with Trusts, can be more difficult to write into a Will. If you choose the DIY route, there are also online templates or Will writing services available.
Alternatively, you can instruct a professional Will Writer or Solicitor. They will be able to advise you on everything to consider and ensure that your Will is valid and clear.
3. Choosing your Executors
When writing your Will, you must select the Executors who will be responsible for administering your estate. Up to four people can be named; it’s best practice to choose at least two. You should consider choosing people who are capable, willing, and trustworthy to be your Executors. Many people choose their spouse, family member, or other close friends. Your Executors can also be beneficiaries of your Will.
If you don’t appoint Executors, you run the risk of your estate being distributed by someone who you do not trust to undertake the task. Additionally, by not leaving a Will at all, you leave your estate to be distributed by the rules of intestacy. This could cause complications for your family and friends after your death.
There is also the option to name a professional Executor, such as a Will Writer, Financial Adviser, Solicitor, or estate administration specialist such as Kings Court Trust. This ensures that your estate is in safe hands and is useful for those struggling to choose their Executor(s). A professional Executor can be named solely or alongside a friend, family member, or other individual.
4. Naming your beneficiaries
When naming your beneficiaries, it’s important to be as clear as possible. It’s best practice to fully name all individual beneficiaries. If leaving a class gift e.g. ‘to my grandchildren’, it’s important to ensure the category covers everyone you would want to benefit. This could include potential future grandchildren born after the Will has been completed.
Additionally, when your Will names more than one beneficiary, it’s important to dictate how the inheritance will be split. This can include assigning a specific possession, sum of money, or a percentage of the total estate to each beneficiary. You may also wish to leave money to charity; in this instance, your Will should include full details of the charity’s name and registered charity number to make this process simple.
Life is unpredictable, and it’s important to consider all the possibilities. For example, a beneficiary might pass away before the estate is administered. To account for this, you can state who each beneficiaries’ share should go to in the event that they are unable to receive it.
5. Children and financial dependents
One option for financial dependents – other than naming them directly –it to leave a portion of your estate to them in a Trust. This means that a Trustee will look after their inheritance until it is time for them to receive it. It can be set up so that the Trustee decides how and when the beneficiary will receive their share.
6. What are your funeral wishes?
If you have any specific requests for your funeral service, you should detail them in your Will. Not only does this ensure your wishes are fulfilled, but it also makes things easier for those planning your funeral after you pass away.
7. Will your estate be charged Inheritance Tax?
If Inheritance Tax (IHT) needs to be paid, it will be applied to your estate before it passes to your beneficiaries. The Executors of the Will are responsible for ensuring IHT is paid. IHT should be paid by the end of the sixth month after death to avoid interest charges, and some of it must be paid before probate is granted.
Usually, there’s no IHT to pay if the estate is below £325,000 or if everything above this amount is left to a spouse/civil partner, a charity, or a community amateur sports club. However, there are exceptions. Learn more about the rules surrounding IHT on GOV.UK.
8. Who will witness and sign your Will?
A legally valid Will must be signed in the presence of at least two other people in England and Wales. In Scotland, only one witness is required. They must witness you signing your Will and also sign it in your presence. For England and Wales, the witnesses must see the will signed at the same time rather than at different times.
The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of the Will or a spouse/civil partner of another beneficiary, so it’s important to consider this when naming your beneficiaries.
9. Storing your Will
If you’re writing your Will with a professional provider, they will likely have access to a secure storage option. This is often free of charge. If this isn’t possible, there are Will storage companies available, and your bank might also have a storage option.
Alternatively, you can keep it yourself, but it’s important to put it somewhere safe. You shouldn’t staple or clip anything to your Will, as a damaged Will can be deemed invalid. You should inform one of your Executors of your Will’s location to make the process easier after your death.
10. Updating your Will
Any life changes you encounter after your Will has been made should prompt you to make a Will update. Many people don’t realise that when you get married, any existing Will becomes invalid, and a new one must be drawn up. Other events that may prompt an update (or the addition of a codicil) could be separation or divorce, a new child/grandchild, buying property, and more. For an overview of eight life updates that should spur you to update your will, read our blog.
Kings Court Trust is a specialist provider that offers award-winning solutions for probate and estate administration. We can be named as professional Executors in your Will or assist if you’re currently acting as an Executor. If you have any questions about probate or estate administration, call our Client Services Team on 0300 303 9000.