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Top 10 tips for making a Will

23 Mar 2016

Our private client lawyers answer some of the key questions our clients ask us concerning making a Will.

1. What happens if I don't have a Will?

If you die without making a Will, you will be said to have died “intestate”. If this happens anything you own will be distributed under the intestacy rules. This means the law sets out who should deal with your affairs and who should inherit your estate (money, property and personal possessions). If you die without leaving a Will, it means that you could leave friends and family to deal with complicated affairs in handling your estate.

It may, for example, mean that your civil partner or spouse will have to share your estate with your parents.  In some cases that may be a recipe for disaster!

To find out more about what would happen to your assets without a Will, please click here to request a copy of our Intestacy Chart.

2. Do I still need a Will if I have nothing to leave?

Even if you think that your estate is a relatively worth a small amount of money, it is still important to get a properly drafted Will in order to ensure that your wishes are carried out in other matters. For example, if you have children, you will need to appoint guardians to care for them if they are under 18.

3. What is the best way of making a Will?

Having a legally valid Will drawn up by a professionally qualified expert solicitor is an effective way to ensure that you protect those that you care about, and potentially saves your loved ones the time, stress and additional expense of trying to sort out your affairs.

Whilst it may seem like writing a Will with a Will-writer using a kit or a software programme is a cheap and simple route, it can often mean that significant tax savings are overlooked, as well as factors that a legal expert would be able to highlight. Always bear in mind that your Will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign - it is much better to make sure that it is right.

Solicitors are also highly regulated which provides you and your beneficiaries with protection in the unlikely event that something goes wrong.

4. Why do some Wills contain trusts?

There are many reasons to include trusts within Wills. Trusts can be used to protect your beneficiaries and can enable you to shelter assets and to make the most of tax saving opportunities. You can also use a trust to look after assets that you want to pass on to beneficiaries who can't immediately manage their own affairs.

5. Once I have made a Will, do I need to do anything else?

As life goes on and your circumstances change (such as getting married, divorced, or having children), it is likely that your wishes for the division of your assets and belongings will also change.

You should review and reconsider the contents of your Will at least every five years and after any substantial change to your family or affairs. The most common changes that affect Wills are:

  • marriage or re-marriage
  • divorce or separation
  • birth or adoption of children
  • moving or selling property

6. What happens if I have married for a second time?

Once you marry, your existing Will is automatically revoked and so you become intestate.  It is important for you to make a new Will so that you are able to make provisions for your new spouse, but, at the same time, ensure that any children from a previous marriage or relationship will also receive a part of the share of your assets or property you leave behind.

7. What happens if my partner and I live together but are not married?

Many people believe that the concept of “common law marriage” exists when they have the couple have been living together for many years. However, this is not the case,  and if you do not make a Will, then the intestacy rules will still apply. It is particularly important to make a Will in this situation as your partner will not automatically receive any of your money, property or possessions.

8. What happens with Inheritance tax if I leave everything to my spouse?

If you choose to leave everything to your spouse or civil partner, there usually won’t be any Inheritance Tax to pay as these individuals are counted by law as "exempt beneficiaries".

However, it is important to bear in mind when you are planning your Wills, that if you choose to leave everything to your spouse or civil partner, their estate will be worth more when they die, meaning it is likely that Inheritance Tax may have to paid then.

9. I want to set aside some money to gift to charity. Will this also be taxed?

If you make a gift to a registered UK Charity in your will that gift will be tax-free.

10. Where will the record of my Will be stored?

Once you have made your Will, it is important to keep it in a secure place, and to let your executors or relatives know where it is stored. It is no use having a Will if no-one knows it exists!

If you choose the team at DMH Stallard to make your Will, we are able to store the original free of charge for you and to send you a copy. Be aware that others may charge for this service, so whoever you choose, make sure you ask about potential storage charges.

How can we help?

If you would like to know more about our Wills and estate administration services, please contact enquiries@dmhstallard.com.

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