It’s something that we all should have, but less than half of us have taken action to sort out. It’s something we don’t want to think about, but we know is vitally important, especially for our loved ones. It’s tedious, it’s ‘more paperwork’, and it’s considered to be super-complicated. But without a Will, life for your dependents and those you leave behind could get very complicated indeed once you’ve died.
What is a Will?
Put simply, a Will is a legal document that lays out exactly how you’d like your possessions, finances, and estate to be divided up after you’ve gone. It prevents months or even years of legal battles, or even the prospect that your estate ends up in the hands of the Crown, rather than your loved ones. Making sure you have a Will in place before you die can save your family and friends months of hassle and upset during what will be a very emotional and stressful time. Even if you don’t see the benefit of having a Will, your family does, so it’s vital to make sure your affairs are in order in case the worst happens.
What do you need to consider?
Firstly, you need to put a value on your ‘estate’. An estate doesn’t just include bricks-and-mortar property, but everything you own, from jewellery and antiques through to investments, stocks and shares, savings, pensions, and even the car.
Obviously, your assets will change over time, but essentially if there are any substantial changes then caveats or changes to your Will can be made at a later date to reflect this. The value of your estate is what’s left after any debts such as credit card debts have been paid off.
How do you divide up your estate?
That is entirely up to you. You can leave everything to a single benefactor, or you can divvy up your estate between as many people as you want to – you can even leave it all to charity if you want. However, this could lead to lengthy (and costly) litigation disputes in court if someone you’ve promised will benefit in your Will suddenly finds they’ve been cut out.
What else goes in a Will?
Important considerations and plans for your passing don’t start and finish at your estate. A Will can also be used to arrange for guardians to be put in place to look after your children and create trusts for them that will mature once they reach a certain age.
You can also include specific instructions about items that may be financially valueless but to you and your family are priceless, such as collections of photographs, family heirlooms, or a specific piece of jewellery. You can also specify your funeral arrangements within the Will, which can really help your loved ones be clear about what to do and how to celebrate your life, rather than mourning your death.
Pick your Executor
A Will needs an Executor to ensure that your wishes are adhered to and your instructions are carried out. This can be a close friend, a family member, or a professional such as a family law solicitor that you trust. Professional Executors are often more adept in dealing with more complex issues such as accessing and distributing finances including your pensions, investments, and savings.
Work with a solicitor to draft your Will
Yes, you can create your own Will using online tools and Will templates. But to make sure your final wishes don’t end up as a lengthy court case, it’s best to talk to a solicitor when you’re drafting your Will. They’ll be able to advise you on all the technical details and ensure that a Will is properly witnessed, signed, and legally binding. This is one of the most important documents you’ll ever draw up, so it’s vital to make sure you get it right first time.
What if things change?
Life changes, and sometimes dramatically. You may have drawn up your original Will before you had children and then a year later, along come twins! If major events happen in your life then you should update your Will sooner rather than later. It’s advisable to update your Will every five years (if necessary). And don’t forget to tell the person you want to act as Executor where to find the paperwork. Once you’ve written your Will, your Solicitor will usually store your Will and provide you with a copy for yourself.
If you’re ready to sort out one of the most important pieces of paperwork of your life, contact us today and talk to one of our wills, trust and probate experts for clear, practical advice on writing a Will.
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