Thinking about writing a Will questions your own mortality. It’s not a nice subject to think about, but it’s better for you to make your choices on how you want your wealth to be distributed, rather than leave it to the rules of someone else. We’re going to take a look at five key things to think about when you write your Will.
1: Understand your personal wealth
You don’t need to know the exact value of everything you own down to the penny, but you should have a good idea of what you own. As well as being part of the leading test for testamentary capacity, this can help with understanding if you expect to leave your beneficiaries an inheritance tax liability.
Generally, if you’re married or living together, then lots of assets will be owned jointly with your spouse/partner. It’s a good idea to talk things through together and consider what you are both worth together. If you’re not married/civil partnered, then you will have lower limits of the nil-rate band for inheritance tax.
Everyone has an inheritance tax threshold, known as the nil-rate band, currently £325,000. This is the value of assets that can pass to their beneficiaries without attracting any inheritance tax. If you leave everything to your spouse/civil partner, then on your death, their threshold will be increased to £650,000. Unmarried couples cannot do this, their threshold stays at £325,000 each. You may want to consider adding a nil-rate-band discretionary trust in your Will – speak to one of our advisors to learn more.
Passing your primary residence to your direct descendants (children/grandchildren etc) will afford you up to an additional £175,000 inheritance tax allowance.
It’s worth understanding your own wealth to work out what inheritance tax liability, if any, you would leave behind. There are ways to try and mitigate your inheritance tax liability, but as Solicitors, we don’t have a magic solution to make inheritance tax disappear.
It’s a good idea to know the details of your pensions and any life insurance too. These should be considered when writing your Will. Although the benefit is usually nominated and therefore falls outside of your estate for the purpose of your Will.
Wills can use complicated, old-fashioned language. But really, they are simple documents. A professional Will Writer or Solicitor will help you understand the terminology being used.
2: Consider your options carefully, don’t make rash decisions
Decisions about what you want to write in your Will, and whom it should include, should be made carefully. You should make sure it is your choice, and that you are not influenced by someone else. It is important to remember that family relationships can be rocky. You might want to exclude someone in the heat of the moment but think that over carefully.
Many things can change in your life, and your Will can be changed to reflect life events. You can change your Will throughout your lifetime as many times as you wish, providing you have the mental capacity to do so.
3: Choosing executors
Who would you like to be responsible for dealing with your wishes after your death? These people will be your Executors. Depending on what is in your estate, not necessarily value-wise, but the number of assets, administering the estate can take a lot of work, organisation and time. Ensure you pick someone who will be capable of taking on such a task.
You may pick your spouse/partner to be your executor and vice-versa, but it is wise to pick someone else too in the event that they were not able to undertake the task. If you’re a couple drawing Wills up together, what if you both die?
You can appoint a solicitor to be your executor, but you don’t have to. An executor can choose to appoint a solicitor to administer your estate if they didn’t feel they were up to the job.
4: What about your children?
If you have children, you could leave everything to them. If your children are under 18, you could leave everything in trust and appoint trustees to look after the trust until your children become adults. You may wish to add in some instructions to the trust, such as delaying your children’s inheritance until they are 25 or allowing the money held in trust to provide for your children while they are under 18.
If you have children under the age of 18, you will need to think about whom you will appoint as their guardians. This is a huge decision to make, and it is a big ask of anyone you choose. Talk to those you would want to appoint as guardians before you add them to your Will.
If you don’t have children, you may want to consider where your estate will go.
5: Funeral wishes
Think about your funeral wishes. These can be included in your Will. You can be specific about the type of funeral you want. Burial or cremation, graveside or committal. You could specify where you want to be buried or where you want your ashes spread. You could leave instructions for a wake, viewing or memorial service.
You can also decide if you want to donate any part of your body for transplants or medical science.
Ready to write your Will?
Around 60% of people in the UK have not written a Will, they simply do not want to think about it. It is extremely important to make sure you and your family have a Will, should the worst happen.
Your Will tells everyone what you would want to happen to your possessions, money and property when you pass away. Collectively these are known as your ‘estate’. If you pass away without a Will, the law decides what happens to your estate, and this may not be what you would have wanted.
It is easy to make a Will, and it will save your relatives unnecessary distress at an already difficult time. A Will makes it much easier for your family or friends to sort everything out in line with your wishes.
If you’re now ready to write yours, get in touch with one of our Wills & Trusts Planners today.