Importance of making a will

Writing a will

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When I take on a new client one of the first questions I ask them is if they have a will in place – such an important document.  Frequently the answer is no; there is definitely a reluctance to have this document prepared!  It is so needed though.  This article gives you the reasons why a will is essential to have.

A will may not only cover how your estate is shared amongst beneficiaries, but it can also define other arrangements, such as the custody of your children.

The intestacy law is based on the traditional perception of family. Even if you’ve spent 20 years with your partner, if you are not married or in a civil partnership, they will be left with nothing if the estate is shared according to the intestacy law. With a will, you can care for your partner when you die. The intestacy law will not consider your stepchildren or foster children as beneficiaries if they are not adopted.

A will can also define arrangements such as who is to live in your home. Without a will, your partner or children may be forced to leave their home because someone else is entitled to part of it and your loved ones may not be able to pay them out.

Inheritance tax is not only based on the value of your estate but also on whom you leave it to. Property left to your spouse is automatically exempt from inheritance tax. Property left to your children or grandchildren can generate a lower inheritance tax bill due to the additional threshold available under the residence nil rate band. 

Often, people want to support a charity with all or part of their estate. Maybe you benefited from the charity and want to give something back or maybe you just strongly support their cause. You are entitled to leave your estate to whomever you like. To make sure your chosen charity will benefit from your estate, you will have to list them as beneficiaries in your will and define what share they’ll get.

It’s important to prepare a will correctly so that it doesn’t cause problems for your loved ones.

Mistakes that could invalidate your will

1. Not getting it correctly witnessed

 For a will to be valid in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses over the age of 18.

2. Only doing it once

As a rule of thumb, you should look to review your will every three years and whenever your family or financial circumstances change.

3. Being too specific

Although it’s important to be clear about your wishes, being too specific could lead to confusion and cause your will to become out of date.

Stating simply that you wish £10,000 to be shared between your grandchildren, without including names, will mean any new children living at your death are automatically included.

4. Failing to take tax into account

If you have a complicated estate, it’s worth taking regular financial advice.

5. Not talking about it

With regard to an executor, it’s important to make them aware that you’ve named them. Executors are not only responsible for making sure your wishes are followed: they must also locate the will and access the original copy of it, so make sure you let them know where it’s being stored.

6. Not following the correct process for making changes

You can’t amend your will after it has been signed and witnessed but you can make official alterations with what’s known as a codicil. This must be witnessed and signed in the same way.

A few reasons to make a lasting power of attorney (LPA)

It allows you to decide who should deal with your affairs if you are unable to, which can prevent disputes arising between loved ones if you lose capacity and are unable to make such decisions for yourself.

You can give instructions and guidance to your attorneys to assist them in carrying out their duties in the role.

There is no limit to the number of people you can appoint which means that you can make provision for who should act for you if your first appointed attorneys are no longer able or willing to act.

You can revoke your LPA at any time while you have capacity if you change your mind about your appointed attorneys.

At an appointment

Identification is always required and the full names and addresses of whom you would like to include in your documents. Together with an idea of what your main objective and concerns are so that they can be met. You are able to ask questions before you make any decisions and can run through your options before you go ahead and confirm any instruction so that you feel confident and happy about the decisions you make. 

Record all of your financial information in one place

It will save your executor time and stress if all your financial information is laid out in one place. This can include things like bank accounts, income streams (including pensions), outgoings, continuing contracts and insurance policies.

Dos and don’ts for attorneys and donors From Which? Money March 2024

As a donor

  • DO get certified copies. This can avoid delays waiting for one organisation to return documents before registering with others.
  • DO think carefully before appointing attorneys jointly (as opposed to ‘jointly and severally’). This will restrict their access to accounts and if they live far apart, visiting the branch at the same time could be impractical.
  • DO write yourself a list of all your savings, current and investment accounts. Gathering all the relevant paperwork and other important records in one place will help speed things up.
  • DO get organised early. You can only register a power of attorney while you still have mental capacity.
  • DON’T avoid difficult conversations with your family. Ideally you should explain to your chosen attorneys what the role involves, and check they have the time to do it.

As an attorney

  • DO keep detailed records of significant decisions and receipts.
  • DON’T put up with bad customer service. Some staff may bot be experienced or fully trained, so you may need to politely challenge them.
  • DON’T be afraid to complain. Attorneys can go to the Financial Ombudsman Service if the donor has lost capacity. In some cases, it may give the donor compensation.

 

As you can see it is a good idea to get this off your list. You can do it yourself but I recommend using a Solicitor as they keep drilling down and are experienced.  It is good to know your will has been prepared correctly and does what you want it to do.

I had my will and power of attorneys prepared by Rosy Chander of Rose Law Solicitors, 3 The Orchard, Bilston. WV14 0EA  www.rose-lawsolicitors.co.uk 01902 495049  I am happy to recommend Rosy – she is very friendly and always does a good job.