Making a Will: A Practical Necessity For All Of Us
Making a Will. Do you find these words alarming, striking you with dismay and filling your mind with negative thoughts? Then you are not alone. Most of us put off the idea of making a Will, not wanting to think about when we die. However, burying our head in the sand is not a good idea and just as we prepare for the future by taking out insurance, then we should make a Will as standard.
If you don’t make a Will, you could be leaving your family wide open to a lot of worry and stress. Sorting out your estate will be made more complicated and will add to what is an already difficult time.
When should you make a Will?
58% of adults in the UK do not have a Will and 42% do nothing to prepare for inheritance tax. 1 in 10 believe that even if they do not make a Will, their assets will automatically be shared amongst the right people, which is incorrect. Even if you are married, your spouse may not automatically be the beneficiary. You could end up with your assets being shared amongst those that you did not want to benefit, going totally against what you had in mind.
But when should we make a Will? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t just need to make a Will when you get older or sick. Most of the time Wills are made by people who are in the best of health and enjoying life. You can make a Will at any age so don’t keep putting it off thinking that it only applies when you marry, buy a house or become ill. The future is unpredictable for all of us so it is far better to view a Will as a practical necessity, get it written up and put away safely and then carry on as usual.
What does a Will do?
A Will is a legal document that protects your home, family and any other assets you have when you pass away. Within this document, you state how you want your estate to be shared. By planning ahead, you may be able to reduce the inheritance tax that your beneficiaries will pay. If you have a partner but are not married, then legally they will have no claim on your assets unless you specify this in your Will. Sadly, in this case, partners can find themselves being cast out of their home as the title to the property passes to someone else. By making a Will you can avoid this.
Which people should you name in your Will?
You should name the people that you wish to inherit your estate, providing individual gifts to friends and family if you wish and even charities. If you have a much loved family pet, even they should be named in the Will to ensure that they are taken care of.
As well as beneficiaries, you also need to specify your executors i.e. the people that will carry out the instructions of your Will. This can be your spouse, children or a solicitor or a bank. It is normal to specify a couple of options should the first one be unable to perform this role.
Making a Will
So does your Will have to write on a special form or created using lots of complex legal language? The answer is ‘No’. Making a Will is relatively easy and will protect your family in the future.
Your Will can be legally valid as long as it clearly shows:
- How you want your estate to be shared out upon your death.
- That it has been signed and dated by you and confirmed in your presence with the signatures of two witnesses (who must not stand to inherit in the Will).
- That it was made of your own free will and that you were not pressurised in any way.
So, in theory, you can write your Will yourself using a standard Will Pack purchased from a store or online. However, many people choose to use a professional solicitor or will writer to do this to ensure that it is accurate and clear.
You may wish to discuss your Will with family, thereby ensuring that you leave nothing unsaid. If you have any business interests these should also be referred to in the Will.
When you make a Will do you have to create a Lasting Power of Attorney?
Not everyone does but setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can be considered as part of your planning for retirement. Anyone over 18 can be your attorney, as long as they are not currently bankrupt. You may wish to put this in place at the same time as your make your Will or you can do it at a later date.
How does a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) work?
Usually put in place by a solicitor, this is a legal document which specifies a chosen person to take care of your affairs if you are unable to or no longer want to. Without an LPA in place, your family would have to go through a process via the Court of Protection which can be expensive, stressful and difficult. Even if you are married, your partner will not be able to look after your affairs without an LPA.
You can opt for a Health & Welfare LPA which means that if you become sick, decisions about your health and place of abode can be made by your attorney if you cannot do this yourself. Alternatively, a Property and Finance LPA allows you to choose an attorney to take control of your finance and property i.e. paying bills, looking after bank accounts and pensions and even selling your home.
Both of these will only take effect if you are unable to act or decide that you no longer wish to deal with the responsibility.
Remember that you may need to review your Will on a regular basis as circumstances change. You should also store it in a safe place, known to your executor and/or your family.
So don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today; get your Will drawn up, tuck it away somewhere safe and look forward to the future.