What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document containing a set of instructions telling your appointed Executors what to do with your assets/property when you die – the ‘what and to who’. It can also set out who you would like to look after your children.
Who can draw up my Will?
For peace of mind, it is crucial that whoever draws up your Will, knows what they’re doing and takes their time to understand you and your circumstances. Solicitors can be very costly and you usually have to go to them. You can buy DIY Wills but you can’t guarantee that it will do what you want it to do, particularly if you have complex family arrangements or are trying to protect your finances. Members of the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) make an excellent alternative. As an IPW member, I’ve had to pass formal examinations, undertake annual CPD, operate under a Code of Practice and have full professional indemnity insurance.
Where do I go to make my Will?
In the face of coronavirus, I offer appointments by video call – Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype or Facetime – where meeting face to face would otherwise be problematic. In more ‘normal times, I visit all my clients in their own homes or a place of their choosing, at a time to suit them – no impersonal office, no trip into town.
The only way to ensure your wishes are carried out after your death is to have a valid Will. It ensures the right things go to the right people, you decide who looks after your young children and you choose who sorts out your affairs after you’ve died. It can also help avoid family squabbles at a very emotional time. In some circumstances, it can help reduce the amount of inheritance tax you might have to pay. Crucially, a Will guarantees that your estate (property, possessions and money) are distributed a lot more quickly and easily than without.
What happens if I die without a Will?
Dying without a Will means you are ‘intestate’ and there are strict laws in place which dictate who gets what and in what order. These laws move slowly. If you have a young family, dying intestate also means your young children’s welfare is more insecure as Social Services initially decide who your children live with.
Who can make a Will?
Anyone over the age of 18 who has mental capacity!
I live with someone but we’re not married or in a Civil Partnership, does this make any difference?
Yes. If you die without making a will, your partner will receive nothing unless it is already in joint name.
We’re a couple, should we make a joint Will or 2 separate wills?
It is usual practice to have 2 separate Wills called mirror Wills, not 1 joint Will. Mirror Wills contain the same major provisions except there may be some differences in specific gifts of personal possessions.
What’s all the legal jargon?
Executor – a person who is responsible for carrying out your wishes as stated in your Will and obtaining the Grant of Probate. An Executor must be over 18.
Beneficiary – someone who has been left something in your Will. A beneficiary can also act as an Executor.
Trustee – a person who is responsible for looking after certain assets on behalf of other beneficiaries (usually children or vulnerable adults). They are given special powers to make the financial and welfare decisions for the person they are responsible for.
Guardian – someone who you have appointed to look after your children if they are under 18.
Estate – everything that belongs to you at the time of your death.
Probate – the process where your Will is legally validated. Your Executor needs to obtain a Grant of Probate before they can distribute your estate according to your Will’s instructions.
How does a Will become valid?
Among other things, it has to be signed and dated by you in front of 2 independent Witnesses (who are not Beneficiaries or married to one) and who also sign and date. There are also conditions which must be met if the Testator is blind or can’t read or write.
Does marriage, re-marriage or divorce affect my existing will?
Yes. Previous Wills become invalid if you marry/re-marry. If you get divorced, your Will remains as is. This a key time to consider the needs of all families and any children from previous relationships.
Not as much as you might think. Valley Willwriting charges considerably less than many solicitors, particularly because its fees don’t include VAT.