If you’re thinking about writing your Will there are a couple of things you need to decide prior to the appointment.
1. Who do you want as your executors?
The choice of executor is possibly the most important decision that you have to make as these are the people who will be winding up your estate, enacting your wishes as distributing your property. Typically, married partners and people in settled relations will appoint their partner in the first instance, often following by their children. Other common appointments are brothers and sisters or other close relatives. You may also appoint professional executors to act on your behalf – however this will attract fees. It is not generally advisable to appoint executors from an older generation than your own. It is vital that you tell the people who you propose to make executors that you are going to do this – they must be willing to take on the role. A commonly held misconception is that executors cannot be beneficiaries of a Will, this is not so.
2. Who will be guardians for your children?
If you have minor children (under the age of 18) when you make your Will, it is advisable to make provision for a guardian for those children. Once again if you are going to appoint a guardian it is very important that you discuss it in advance with them. Typically, appointments can include your own brothers and sisters, or in some cases your older children (where they are over 18). Unmarried couples will need to ensure that both parties have parental responsibility, if you are unsure then please ask.
3. What do you own and what’s the value?
This provides options on the best way to protect your estate.
4. Do you want to make specific cash legacies?
Making your Will is an opportunity to give certain assets to people who might not otherwise benefit from an inheritance. It may be appropriate to leave instructions in your Will for specific amounts of money to be given to named individuals, groups or charities.
5. Do you have any special item bequests?
Most people have items that they value beyond any cash value, be it a piece of jewellery or a painting. Your Will is the appropriate place to express your wishes for the ongoing ownership of these items. An example might be ‘I give my wedding and engagement rings to my eldest daughter’.
6. What are your funeral wishes?
Do you wish to be cremated or buried, can your body be used for medical purposes, do you want flowers at your funeral or donations to a charity, should a specific hymn be sung at the service? All of these items can be instructed via your Will.
7. Who should the residue of your estate pass to?
After specific bequests and legacies have been distributed you need to decide who will receive the balance of your estate and in what proportion. Once again this can be a specific person, a group of people or a charity. Typically, in a situation where a couple are married with children an estate residue would go to the partner in the first instance and then to the children equally thereafter.
8. Any exclusions?
Whilst excluding someone from your Will is usually considered a negative thing to do, there can sometimes be good reason to exclude people from a Will. If you need to do this we will happily discuss it with you and advise you of the possible consequences of making exclusions.
9. Possible needs before death:
A Will is a document which expresses your wishes and instructions, but it only comes into force after your death. Whilst you are planning to write your Will it is appropriate to consider what will happen if you become unable to manage your affairs before you die. If you do not make provision then it is likely decisions about you will be made by a court rather than your loved ones. To avoid this, you should make Lasting Powers of Attorney or it may also be appropriate to create a Living Will setting out your attitude to medical intervention in the event of a terminal illness.
You will need two people to witness the signing of your Will; they must not be the people who are beneficiaries or people who could benefit from your Will. It is therefore not advisable to use relatives as witnesses.
11. Where to store your Will
You can store your Will somewhere safe yourself, we can store it for you for a small annual fee or you can ask a Will storage company.