Macks Solicitors’ expert Wills lawyers answer your questions in our guide to making a Will…

Why should I make a Will?

With today’s complicated family relationships and sophisticated financial arrangements, everyone should have a Will.

There are many reasons for making a Will, including

  • To indicate who is to receive your estate – only by having a Will can you make sure your estate is passed on precisely how you wish and that your spouse, family, friends or favoured charity benefits.
  • To appoint executors – only by having a Will can you appoint the person of your choice to carry out your wishes, arrange your funeral, collect in your assets, decide what and when assets should be sold, ensure your liabilities are settled and distribute the remainder to your beneficiaries.
  • To appoint guardians – the person of your choice will then look after your children’s day-to-day needs. This avoids the courts making this decision.
  • To leave a specific item or personal possession – this prevents it being sold and ensures it remains in your family.
  • To leave instructions regarding your funeral – whether you wish to be buried or cremated.
  • To reduce Inheritance Tax or nursing home fees – by setting up tax-efficient trusts or leaving gifts to charity.
  • To give you and your loved ones peace of mind – by simplifying the process of administering your estate, securing the future of your loved ones and reducing the time and costs involved.

How do I go Aaout making a Will?

Making a Will can be a straightforward and relatively inexpensive procedure, especially if you consult a solicitor specialising in this area of law.

The first stage is to make an initial appointment either at a Wills solicitors’ office or, if you find it difficult to travel, in your home or in a hospital, hospice or nursing home.

Although not imperative, it would assist the Wills solicitors if you could take the following information to the initial meeting

  • The full names, postal addresses and dates of birth of all your chosen beneficiaries, including members of your immediate family or charitable bodies, those who are dependant upon you and those who are to act as your executors and guardians.
  • The nature and approximate value of your assets, including your home, and any other properties, bank and building society accounts, stocks and shares, life policies and pensions etc.
  • The nature and value of any liabilities you may have, including mortgages, loans, credit cards and guarantees you may have given for others.
  • Whether the assets and liabilities are in your sole name or in joint names or in trust.

After the initial meeting, your Wills lawyers will prepare a draft Will, which will be sent to you for your consideration at home. Subject to any alterations or amendments you may wish to make, another meeting will be arranged in order for your Wills solicitors to go through the Will with you clause by clause and oversee the signing of the Will.

What happens after a Will is made?

Keeping the Will safe

Most Wills solicitors will look after your Will in their strong room at no extra charge. You will be provided with a copy of the completed document for you to keep at home for future reference.

Notifying those concerned

Although not imperative, it is prudent for you to inform your executors and guardians you have made a Will and where the original Will is held.

You may also wish to notify your principal beneficiaries.

Put your affairs in order

Alongside your Will you should keep a record of where your deeds are kept, the company that insures your house, car and life, details of your bank and building society accounts, passwords or codes for any accounts or securities you hold online, details of your pension provider, National Insurance number, shareholdings, funeral wishes, etc.

Your Wills solicitors can provide a blank asset sheet for you to complete and store at home. This can be updated on an annual basis or to coincide with the new tax year.

The completed sheet can be stored with your Will.

Reviewing your Will

You should your review your Will on a regular basis every time a significant event happens in your life or those mentioned in your Will. This could be marriage or divorce, birth or death, moving house, retirement or an increase of decrease in your estate.

It would be wise to review your Will every five years. Your Wills lawyers may write to remind you of this review and advise of any changes in legislation.

Other points to consider

Lasting Powers of Attorney

Having made a Will you have peace of mind, knowing your affairs will be taken care of after your death. A Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to give someone the power to make decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so because of incapacity, illness or frailty. In this way you can ensure your affairs during your lifetime are taken care of.

You can appoint one or more attorneys to act on your behalf. You can provide guidance to your attorneys, restrict their powers and specify whether they are to act together or separately.

There are two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney

  • Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney – this allows your attorney to deal with your bank account, pension and property and pay bills on your behalf.
  • Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney – this gives your attorney power to make healthcare decisions and say what medical treatment you are to receive or not to receive, as well as making more personal welfare decisions, such as where you are to live.

Glossary of Terms

Here are some of the legal terms you may come across when making or changing your Will.

Administrator(s)/Administratrix(es) – The person (or persons) who is appointed by the court to sort out your affairs on death if you do not have a Will. Administratrix is the female form.

Beneficiary – An individual or organisation who receives a gift in your Will.

Codicil – An add-on to your Will allowing you to make a small alteration or addition.

Estate – All of your assets and liabilities at the time of your death.

Executor(s)/Executrix(es) – The person (or persons) chosen by you in your Will to administer your estate and carry out your wishes as set out in your Will.

Intestate/Intestacy – You are said to be intestate if you die without making a Will. Intestacy is when this situation arises.

Legacy – A gift left to a person or organisation in your Will.

Pecuniary legacy – A gift of a sum of money.

Personal chattels – Your personal belongings and household contents.

Probate – The legal procedure to decide whether you have left a valid Will.

Residue/Residuary Estate – The balance of your estate remaining after payment of all your debts and charges and distribution of all gifts.

Residuary legacy – A gift of the residue or part of the residue of your estate.

Specific legacy – A gift of a particular item, eg a piece of jewellery or furniture.

Testator/Testatrix – The person making the Will.

Trustee – A person who holds assets on trust for another. Witness – A person who signs your Will in your presence. This person must be over 18 but should neither be a beneficiary nor married to a beneficiary named in your Will.

This guide has been produced by David Graham, Kerry Brundall and Lynda Monks, specialist Wills and Probate lawyers at Macks Solicitors.

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