Krys Mayoh from the Wealth Management team at Hallidays explains what should be included in an up-to-date Will as part of a series of blogs from the Stockport accountancy firm to raise awareness of the importance or protecting your finances and loved-ones during difficult circumstances.
Making a will enables you to choose what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death, ensuring your wishes are known and your loved ones receive the protection they deserve.
It is particularly important if you are cohabitating or have children from previous relationships to ensure your loved ones inherit according to your wishes. It can help you consider and address and implications for Inheritance Tax for your loved ones.
Your will should include:
- who you want to benefit from your will
- who should look after any children under 18
- who will sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death (your executor)
- what happens if the people you want to benefit die before you
You may also like to include a charity in your will to support a cause close to your heart and potentially reduce the inheritance tax for your loved ones.
Choosing the executor of your will
Carefully consider who you appoint for this role, ensuring it is someone who will efficiently carry out all your wishes. Appointing a friend of family member is not always be the best option. If your estate is complex or tensions could arise amongst your loved ones, we’d strongly recommend an impartial, professional executor to handle your estate appropriately and ensure those you care about most are protected from any unnecessary delays or distress.
When to seek legal advice
Although you can write your will yourself, we’d recommend our expert advice to ensure that it is legally valid, includes all your assets, accurately reflects your wishes and minimises inheritance taxes for your loved ones.
It is particularly important if you, for example:
- have a business
- share a property with someone who is not your husband, wife or civil partner
- want to leave money or property to a dependant who cannot care for themselves
- have several family members who may make a claim on your will, such as a second spouse or children from another marriage
- have a permanent home is outside the UK
- have property overseas
Making your will legal
For your will to be legally valid, you must:
- be 18 or over
- make it voluntarily
- be of sound mind
- make it in writing
- sign it in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both over 18
- have it signed by your 2 witnesses, in your presence (this can be done remotely under certain conditions)
You cannot leave your witnesses (or their married partners) anything in your will.
Keep your will safe
It goes without saying that you’ll need to store your will in a safe place. You can store it at home, or you may prefer the added security and privacy of:
- your solicitor
- your bank
- a company that offers the storage of wills – you can search online
- the London Probate Service
Remember to let your ‘executor’ know where they can find your will, should they need it. We’d also recommend including a separate document for your executor outlining which banks or other financial companies they’ll need to contact. You should also include an up-to-date list of any debts you have (e.g. mortgages, loans) and who they are with (e.g. a lender or a private individual such as a family member or friend). This will enable your executor to act quickly and ensure nothing is missing from your estate for your beneficiaries.
Keep your will up-to-date
It’s vitally important to review and update your will regularly, especially if your living arrangements or family circumstances change e.g.:
- getting separated or divorced
- getting married (this cancels any will you made before)
- having a child or adopting a child
- starting cohabitating (particularly if you have a joint mortgage)
- moving house or buying additional assets e.g. a holiday home.
- if the executor named in your will dies
Without an up-to-date will in place outlining your wishes, your loved ones may not be entitled to inherit any of your estate, which could leave them financially vulnerable and create tensions amongst those you care about most.
There are two ways to change your will:
- Minor changes – you can make an official alteration to your existing will. This is known as a ‘codicil’ and must be signed and witnessed. There is no limit to the number of codicils you add to your will. It is important to document any significant loans/gifts you make so that no conflict arises amongst your loved ones on how your estate should be distributed.
- Major changes – you should make a new will which explains it revokes all previous wills and codicils. Your previous will should be destroyed.