The year 2021 has arrived and although the country is in a national lockdown again (Happy New Year to us), let’s hope it is a better year than what 2020 brought us. Normally many of us have new years resolutions or at least a list of things we want to achieve in the coming year, but have you added making a Will to your list? Why should you? Let’s take a look.
What is a Will and why should you write one?
A Will is an important legal document which enables the person making the Will (otherwise known as the testator), to specify how they would like their belongings (assets, chattels and property) to be distributed on their death.
A Will enables the testator to do the following:-
- Appoint executors to handle their estate and distribute assets on their death
- Appoint guardians to look after minor children (children under the age of 18)
- Make money gifts to family members, friends or even charities
- Specify for certain items to be gifted to a beneficiary i.e. a family heirloom or even a piece of jewellery – we have even seen someone gift their alcohol collection
- Specify funeral arrangements
- Gift properties
- Exclude people from benefiting under their Will i.e. estranged children
- Make provisions for pets
- Include various trusts
- Specify how their estate should be distributed and who to
- It can also be very beneficial for IHT planning.
If you die without making a Will, this means that you will be deemed to have died intestate and the rules of intestacy will govern who will receive your estate on your death. This may not be the most tax-efficient way and also means it could benefit those you may not have wanted to benefit under the Will. Take for example a couple who are currently going through a divorce. Until the divorce is finalised and a decree absolute is issued, if Mr dies without having made a Will excluding his current wife from benefiting from his estate, under the laws of intestacy, if his estate is worth £270,000, she will receive all of his estate. If he had made provisions to put a Will in place, this would not have been the case.
We were asked to provide advice on a very sad case last year where a couple had been in a relationship for 30 years. They were not married but were living together and then Miss died. Her intention was for all to pass to her partner and she assumed since they were together for so long, that they fell in the same category as married couples or those in a civil partnership. Unfortunately, this was not the case as there is no provision for unmarried couples benefiting under the laws of intestacy. They had no children and Miss had no parents so all of her estate went to her only sister.
Please see more information here about the laws of intestacy.
So who can write a Will?
There are different options available to you when it comes to making a Will:-
- See a professional; or
- Write a Will yourself
Although you could write a Will yourself by purchasing a DIY kit from high street retailers, you will not obtain the expert advice needed to cater to more specific personal circumstances and therefore your Will would not be tailored as required. Please see our article here which looks more at the issues of a DIY Will.
The best option by far is to have a professional write your Will for you. Be careful though, as anyone can claim to be a Will Writer so make sure to choose someone who is trained in succession law and insured for their work, as all members of The Society Will Writers (SWW) are. You may also consider a Solicitor who is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), some of whom are also members of the SWW.
By using a professional Will Writer who is a member of the SWW, you are safe in the knowledge that the person who is attending to you will know and understand your needs and have the necessary expertise to advise you properly on how your Will should look and how it will work, especially if your estate is complex. SWW members adhere to a form of self-regulation, which whilst voluntary, imposes minimum standards and requirements on them. All SWW members must keep their knowledge up to date through training and CPD and carry a minimum of £2 million Professional Indemnity Insurance. Only those who do are permitted to be members and will be issued with a certificate of compliance and ID cards confirming their SWW membership.
You should ask to see the SWW member’s ID card on which you will see their membership number and expiry date. You can also confirm if anyone claiming to be a member is a member by looking for them on our Find a Member page. Not all SWW members have a web presence though, so if you can’t find an SWW member online, please call or email us and we will check our database for you.
How do I put it in motion?
Get in touch with one of our members today by going to our Find a Member page where you can search for a member’s name, company name, services offered or even set a search radius to see who is nearby. You can also call or email us and we will find members who are nearby for you.
Due to the current circumstances, it is likely that most interactions and correspondence between you and the Will Writer will be done remotely via video link, email and telephone. The Will Writer will arrange an appointment with you where they will take your instructions and discuss your wishes. The length of the meeting will depend on the complexity of the estate and the advice associated with it.
The Will Writer will then produce the first draft of your Will for your review. Once this is done and any changes are made as required, a final version of your Will will be sent to you for signing. This whole process is normally completed within 28 days although it is best to check the turnaround time with the Will Writer. Of course, if there is a level of urgency due to personal circumstances, please do let the Will Writer know.
Do I need to review my Will?
It is best to review your Will every 3-5 years or at the very least when there is a change in your personal circumstances i.e. marriage or the birth of any children.
If you wish to make amendments to your Will, have a new Will written or any supporting documentation, simply contact your Will Writer who will be able to assist in putting these changes in place or draft any new documentation for you. Remember, if you have a new Will written, it will revoke any previous Wills.
Does my Will stay at home with me?
This is entirely up to you. You can store your Will at home if you’d prefer, but if you do, you must ensure that it is stored somewhere safe where it cannot be easily lost or damaged and your executors know where it can be found.
Another much safer option is to store your Will with your Will Writer who may store it in a dedicated facility like the Society’s very own The National Will Archive. The benefit of storing your Will in a dedicated, secure facility ensures it can be easily found when you die and more importantly that it is not accidentally lost or damaged, tampered with, or even destroyed deliberately by someone else who may have an ulterior motive. Any updated Wills and other supporting documentation like a letter of wishes can also be stored there. There may be additional charges associated with document storage, however, these should more than outweigh the risk of keeping a document elsewhere.
If you have any questions or need any assistance at all in regards to the preparation of your Will, please contact us and a member of the team will be more than happy to help.