New Year, New Will?
Solicitor Courtney L'homme explains why making or updating your Will should be a resolution for 2019..
As we open our calendars into a new year the human instinct is to set ourselves goals as to what we should achieve this year. Whilst probably not at the top of your “to do list” at first glance, we ask:- Have you reviewed your Will recently or do you even have a Will?
Starting the new year talking about death is probably the last thing you want to do; however we want you to consider this from a different perspective. Everyone has experienced, or will experience, grief in their lifetime and when you are in that emotional stage in your life, your priority will be to uphold your loved one’s wishes correctly and they would want to be able to do the same for you. So we ask that you view a Will as making sure your loved ones know what you wanted to happen when you close your eyes for the final time and to make it as easy for them as possible to distribute your estate as you wished.
Every adult should have a Will. Many people think they do not have enough money or assets to warrant writing a Will but this is not the case. According to recent surveys approximately two thirds of the British public do not have a Will in place. The consequences of them dying without a Will may not be a concern for some people; however the rules on intestacy in the UK ensure only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit. This means if you are a cohabitee, stepchild or even a close family friend you will receive nothing under the Intestacy Rules.
Death can often be a trigger for family feuds and even claims brought against the estate of a deceased person. Ensuring your wishes are clear and well justified can reduce this risk occurring.
Many people fear coming to see a solicitor about writing a Will and therefore we want to give you a brief outline of the questions we would ask to make sure you find the process as easy as possible.
1. Who would you like your executors to be?
Executors are the person or people who are in charge of valuing your estate, paying any tax due from your estate and then distributing your estate in accordance with your wishes. They can be beneficiaries or they can receive nothing from the Will. You can also appoint professional executors which is something we often advise if you wish to put a trust in your Will.
2. Do you have minor children? If so, who would you like to appoint as their Guardian(s)?
Whilst this is often the most difficult question to ask parents, it is a very important one. In the event of a child’s parents or primary carers passing away you would always want to ensure they were going to be looked after both physically and financially and your Will is the place to make such an appointment. You can appoint more than one Guardian and it is vital that such a person or people are consulted before you make them a Guardian in your Will.
3. Are there any specific gifts you wish to make?
Singular personal items are often a cause of disputes and therefore if there is that one item you promised to a relative or friend during your lifetime, it is important this is expressed in either a specific clause in your Will or an accompanying letter of wishes so your Executors know that was your wish.
4. Who do you want to receive the remainder of your estate?
This can be one or multiple people, companies or charities. These are the people who are going to get the bulk of your inheritance after payment of any liabilities which fall due on your death including your funeral (unless already paid for).
These are the most basic questions which you would be asked and it is important to note that each individual has different needs and circumstances which your Will should reflect and support.
It is also vital to note that specific events trigger the need to revise your Will or create a new one. In the UK marriage revokes a Will unless that Will is made in contemplation of a marriage. On the other hand, a divorce does not revoke a Will (it only affects certain parts) and therefore if you are going through a separation you should be considering changes to your Will as a matter of urgency.
We advise that your Will is reviewed at least every two years or when something happens such as a change in job, a lottery win, a new property purchase or a new baby in the family.
Lawyers are trained to draft Wills for all types of events, family structures and circumstances. Tick this resolution off your list now to be safe and sound for the remainder of the year.
Courtney L’Homme is a solicitor in Weightmans’ Wills Trusts and Estates Team