A quick guide to making a will
Though it may be tempting to delay making a will until you buy a house, or you think you have to be old and rich to make one, it is essential if you want to ensure your estate is distributed among your beneficiaries without complications. Here, Anthony Kalp, solicitor with Berry & Lamberts, takes a look at the six basic steps involved in making a will and why it is a good idea to seek professional legal assistance when doing so.
The contents of your will
The first step in creating a will is to determine what assets you have to distribute among family and friends and work out their approximate value. This will involve looking at both your assets and debts to ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of what you have to leave to your beneficiaries.
The distribution of those contents
Having established what assets, including personal belongings, you have to pass on to beneficiaries, you next need to determine how these assets will be distributed. Most people writing their will have a relatively clear idea of whom certain assets will go to and how they want to divide the remainder of their estate.
Choosing an executor
The executor of a will is the individual who ensures that the terms of the will are carried out precisely and in accordance with your written wishes. The executor should be someone who is willing to assume the role upon your death and that will carry out the role in an impartial manner. They can be family members, a close friend, or a legal representative. You can have more than one executor, but only a maximum of four can take out a Grant of Probate.
Your children and your will
If you have children who are still relatively young, there are a number of considerations you may want to make when writing your will. First, it may be necessary to appoint a guardian for your children. The guardian would be responsible for their care should something happen to both parents. This includes provisions for step- and adopted children and how best to make provision for disabled children, immediately and in the long-term.
Second, if you’re not convinced that your children are of a suitable age to be made fully responsible for their inheritance, it may be a good idea to appoint someone to manage it for them until they reach an agreed age, or set up a trust fund to be accessed by the child at a certain age (usually at age 18, 21 or 25).
Witnessing the will
The final step in writing a valid will is signing it and having it witnessed. To be valid, all wills must be signed and your signature must be witnessed by two individuals, present at the same time that you sign, and who see you sign. The will also needs to be signed by you voluntarily, without any coercion from another person, and you must be in a sound mental state and understand the consequences of your actions.
Making the most of professional legal advice
Though it is possible to write a will without any professional legal advice, it is not advisable to do so. It may save you a relatively small fee in the short-term, but it could result in a number of long-term problems that could prove costly to those you have chosen to inherit your estate. These include:
- A smooth and complication-free probate process. If a will is not checked over by a legal professional, there’s a greater likelihood that problems may occur when it comes to the point when the directions of the will are carried out.
- A will that’s been created or checked over by a professional legal advisor offers peace of mind. You can rest assured that it is correctly drafted and valid.
- Professional legal advisors will help you make the most of your estate. This is particularly important if the estate is liable to pay inheritance tax or have assets which may complicate matters, such as overseas property.
- Will writing can involve some fairly complex legal concepts. For instance, assets left to young children can be protected until they’re of age in a number of different ways, including trusts and lifetime gifts. Each of these operates in a different way and has its own advantages and disadvantages. A legal professional will be able to advise you as to which is most appropriate for your specific circumstances.
Some life events such as marriage, divorce and separation which would prompt major changes, will require making a new will. Minor changes to a will may be covered by a codicil (a legally binding amendment).
If you would like advice to write a will please contact Anthony Kalp on 01892 526 344 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The contents of this article are for general awareness purposes only. They do not constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances.