What Should I Include in My Will?
21 June 2019
When you set out to make a Will, it can be difficult to know where to start. To make things easier, we've put together some brief guidance on what you should think about including in your Will, such as funeral wishes, provisions for your children and what to leave to whom.
Name Your Executor
First thing to consider is who you want to act as your Executor. This is the person who will be responsible for winding up your affairs and distributing your Estate in line with the terms of your Will.
You can pick anyone you wish as your Executor, but this should be someone who is likely to survive you and also will act in the best interests of your beneficiaries. This can either be someone close to you, such as a friend or relative, or a professional such as a Solicitor or bank. The role of Executor does carry responsibility and involves a number of duties, so it's also important to choose someone who you feel is capable of carrying out the role.
You can include funeral wishes in your Will, such as whether you would like to be buried or cremated, or where you would like to be buried. You could also include things such as what music you would like to be played at your funeral.
If you are including funeral wishes in your Will, it's worth making your loved ones aware of this just in case they begin making arrangements before the Will is read.
Name Legal Guardians for Your Children
If you have children under the age of 18, then you can make provisions for their care in your Will. You can name who should step in as their legal guardian in the event of you and their other parent's death.
Speak to the person or people that you are considering before making your Will. Obviously agreeing to take on legal guardianship of your children is a huge undertaking, so you need to make sure that they are willing and able to take this on if the need ever arises.
For more information, see Choosing a Legal Guardian for Your Children.
Including Your Money / Assets
For many, one of the primary purposes of making a Will is to be clear about who should receive their money and assets after they die. However, in order to do this, you will need to consider not just what you own now but also what you may own at the time of your death.
Your Estate is the collective term for everything you own. This will include any property that you own in your sole name as well as your car, your savings and your personal possessions. It also includes things such as life insurance policies, pension schemes, stocks, shares and premium bonds.
If you own a property jointly with another person as joint tenants, then your share would automatically pass to them on your death, so you cannot include this in your Will. If you own a property jointly with someone else as tenants in common, then your share of the property can be included in your Will. For more information on how it works, see Joint Tenants & Tenants in Common.
Naming Your Beneficiaries
Once you have established what could be in your Estate, you need to decide who you would like this to pass to on your death.
Generally speaking, you can name anyone you want as a beneficiary, and there's no limit to how many beneficiaries you can choose. Your beneficiaries can be your friends, family members, acquaintances or organisations or charities. The person or people that you have named as your Executor can also be named as a beneficiary.
Bear in mind that who you leave gifts to in your Will can directly impact on how much Inheritance Tax your Estate is liable to pay. For example, gifts to some beneficiaries such as your spouse or a charity will not usually be liable for Inheritance Tax. This is because these are exempt Beneficiaries. It's important to consider this when deciding what to leave to whom. Inheritance Tax rules are complex, so it's a good idea to seek advice from a professional Will Writer, such as Co-op Legal Services.
What's more, there are different ways in which you can make a gift to someone in your Will. Some of these gifts will be paid before others, so if you don't plan properly then some of your loved ones might not be as well provided for as you'd hoped. This is another reason why we would always recommend seeking professional help when drafting your Will. For more information on how the different types of gift, or legacy, work, see Legacies in Wills and Probate Explained.