Whilst many of us do not like to think about the day that we might die, it is important to make sure that you have put a Will together in order to take care of the people around you should the worst happen. This needs a lot of careful thought and needs to be put together in the right way to ensure that it is legally binding and that your wishes are carried out when you are gone.
When we die, we can leave assets such as property or savings behind, and without a Will, it is impossible for people to know what you wanted to happen to them. You may also have young children who still need to be looked after.
Whilst you might have expressed your wishes to individuals, this is not legally binding and can lead to disputes between family members and friends. By writing a Will, you can ensure that everything goes where you want it to and that any last requests are carried out. Without a Will, the law will decide how your estate is dealt with, and this may not be what you want.
A Will is a formal document that determines who should be in charge of caring for your children and how your assets should be divided up when you die. This should be put together by you without persuasion or coercion from outside parties whilst you have the mental capacity to make the decisions and understand the relevant consequences. The Will should be witness by two independent people who will sign it in your presence.
You can make a Will at any time once you have reached the age of 18 and are deemed to be of sound mind. It does not matter how much, or how little, you have to leave behind – if you have any wishes at all, these should be written down.
You can write a Will by yourself, but there can be a lot of complexities to it, so it is often advisable to get the help of a solicitor who can ensure that it has been completed professionally and correctly.
It is possible to write a Will by yourself on a scrap of paper, but it is advisable to take a more professional approach. You can write it all on your own or buy certain templates that you can use as a guide.
These will include some of the legal terminology that you need to include in order for the Will to be valid, but it is important that you understand what this means to avoid any confusion. If your wishes are extremely simple, such as leaving everything to a partner or child, then a DIY Will can be effective, but for anything more complicated, it is advisable to make use of a solicitor.
Witing a DIY Will can be considered to be a risky business, as a single mistake could invalidate the whole thing, meaning that your family are left fighting over your assets in court or paying huge legal and tax bills.
Many people opt to use a solicitor to help them write their Will in order to ensure that everything is covered and that their wishes will be carried out without complication.
A solicitor can help you to work out the value of your estate and how it can be divided up amongst your chosen beneficiaries. They can make sure that all of your wishes are communicated clearly and can offer you advice on the tax implications of your decisions. They can also help to point out any aspects that you might not have thought of and will ensure that all of the legal language is correct.
In some cases, you can even ask your solicitor to store your Will for you in order to avoid it being lost or destroyed.
It is worth remembering that there is a cost attached to having a solicitor draw up your Will for you, but it can save a lot of expense and heartache after your demise. It also provides you with protection if there is a problem or complaint of any sort. It is therefore worth ensuring that your solicitor has experience in Will writing and shop around to find out more about the person you want to work with.
Knowing what to include in your Will is especially important if you want to have all bases covered. You will need to look at all of your assets including money, property, cars, digital assets and jewellery and decide whether these should be sold, and the money divided amongst the beneficiaries. You can also leave specific gifts in your Will such as a piece of jewellery, keepsake or family heirloom.
Your Will should also include details of who your beneficiaries are and what you want to leave to each one. This can include any charities that you want to leave gifts to.
If you have any dependents such as young children, you can also stipulate who you want them to live with if both parents have died and any financial provisions that you might have made for this situation.
If you have specific requirements for your funeral, then these can also be included in your Will. This could be anything from how it will be paid for to the songs that you want to have played.
Your pets can also be taken care of in your Will by detailing what you want to happen to them.
As part of your Will, you should also name your executor, who will ensure that your wishes are carried out. You will then need to sign your Will in the presence of two independent witnesses.
The executor of your Will is the person who will be in charge of handling your estate when you die. They will be responsible for ensuring that all of your wishes are followed, including paying outstanding debts and taxes as well as distributing your assets. If there are any legal proceedings following your death, your executor will also be required to handle these.
This is a very important job, so it is vital that you consider your choices carefully. First and foremost, the executor must be somebody that you trust and that is reliable. They ae likely to have a lot of paperwork to deal with and the process can take months, so it should be somebody who is capable of handling this.
It is quite common to appoint more than one executor to help share the burden and make the process a little easier. If you do not feel that you know anyone who could act as your executor, then you can appoint your solicitor to do this for an extra fee.
There may be times when you will need to update your Will. This might be in the event of a marriage or divorce, your children growing up or a death in the family. It can also be simply because you changed your mind about something. It is Important that you update your Will as soon as you can in order to ensure that your estate is not left to the wrong person.
To make quick or simple changes to your Will, then could make a codicil, which is an additional legal document explaining any changes to your Will such as changing the executor, updating beneficiaries or their gifts or updating the guardian selection for your children. This should be signed and witnessed in the same way as your Will. If your changes are more complicated, then it may be best to write a new Will and destroying any previous versions.
It is advisable to look over your Will every few years to remind yourself of what is included and see whether there is anything that you need to change or update.
Many people can put off making a Will because of the complications or expense, or simply because they do not want to think about dying, but that can come with a lot of risk. If there is no Will in place when you die, your estate will be shared out according to the rules on intestacy.
This limits who is able to inherit and might mean that assets go to the wrong people. In the rules of intestacy, an estate will be passed to a married spouse, civil partner or child but limits on the amount do apply and unmarried partners will not receive anything.
This means that your loved ones may find themselves without a home or trying to prove their case in court, which is not only stressful and expensive, but also incredibly hard to do whilst grieving.
Once you have made your Will, it is important to ensure that it is looked after. Your executor will need to know where they can find your Will, otherwise it cannot be actioned. It should not be kept in a bank or safety deposit box, as no-one will be able to access this, but it should be kept in a very safe place to avoid it being lost, stolen or damaged. If you do not have a safe place of your own, then you can ask your solicitor to store it, or lodge it with the Probate Service.
Whilst most Wills are intended for after your death, a living will is actioned before this happens. This is a written statement which allows to make decisions about your medical treatment in the future if you are incapable of expressing your wishes at the time.
This allows you to refuse treatment, decide where you would like to be cared for, any personal preferences and even a list of who can and cannot visit you. This will also need to be signed to show you were in sound mind at the time of writing and your loved ones should be made aware that you have made a living will and where they can find it.
Writing a Will can seem like a simple task, but you should always remember that it is an important legal document and therefore needs to be completed correctly. It is therefore advisable to involve a solicitor to ensure that all of your wishes can be carried out with as little pain and distress as possible for those who have been left behind.
Here at Lovedays Solicitors, we have been drafting Wills for thousands of people for over 100 years. Our specialist experts will be able to discuss with you whether you need a Will. They will also help you to consider the contents of your Will. We will ensure that your Will is valid and properly executed.
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Lovedays Solicitors, Potter and Co Solicitors and Andrew Macbeth Cash and Co Solicitors are the trading names of Derbyshire Legal Services Limited which is a company registered in England and Wales under company number 08838592. Registered office Sherwood House, 1 Snitterton Road, Matlock, Derbyshire, DE4 3LZ.
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