Though it may be tempting to delay making a will until a later date, it’s essential if you want to ensure your estate is distributed among your beneficiaries without complications. Here, we take a look at the basic steps involved in making a will and why it’s 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 have your estate valued and to determine what assets you have to distribute among family and friends. This will involve looking at both your assets and liabilities 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 inheritors, you next need to determine how these assets will be distributed. Most people writing their will have a relatively clear idea of how they want to divide their estate and to whom certain assets will go. You have spent your whole life building your estate so making a will ensures that it passes to those beneficiaries you want it to pass to rather than by the rules of intestacy.
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. You can have more than one executor and it is a good idea to appoint one or more replacements. 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, but above all, should be a person or persons you trust.
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 otherwise Social Services will decide who should care for them. The guardian would be responsible for their care should something happen to both parents. This includes provisions for step children 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 will is having it witnessed. To be valid, all wills must be signed and this process must be witnessed by at least two individuals, who should not be a beneficiary under the will or their spouse. A person making a will needs to be signing as an individual who is doing so voluntarily, without any coercion from another person, and who is in a sound mental state and understands the consequences of their 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.
- Professional legal advisors will help you make the most of your estate. By the effective use of succession planning, you may be able to mitigate any inheritance tax payable on your estate. It may also be possible to protect your estate from future care home fees.
- 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 gifts. Each of these operates in a different way and has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Some life events such as marriage, divorce and separation which would prompt major changes, may require making a new will. Minor changes to a will can be covered by a codicil (a legally binding amendment).