Expert Wills Solicitor and Head of Wills at Co-op Legal Services, James Antoniou, answers the top ten most popular questions he is asked about making a Will in England and Wales.
1. Can an Executor of a Will also be a beneficiary?
Yes they can. There is no reason why any family member, friend or anyone else benefiting from your Will cannot be an Executor, as long as they are over 18 years old. Perhaps a more important question to ask is, are they willing and able to be an Executor?
2. Can any of my beneficiaries be a witness when I am making my Will?
No. A beneficiary in your Will should not be a witness to you signing it. The spouse or civil partner of the beneficiary should not be a witness either. If they do witness your Will, they will be disinherited.
3. Can I write a Will for my parents?
No you can't and the Will could be invalidated if you do. A Will should reflect the wishes of the person for whom the Will is being made for, without any influence from anyone else. If you wrote your parents Will, it may not fully reflect their wishes or you could be accused of putting pressure on your parents to make a Will that suited your wishes rather than theirs. A claim could be made to invalidate the Wills if this was to happen.
When you use our professional Will writing service we can only take details for the Will from your parents. This makes sure we have an independent record of their wishes. This protects you as much as your parents if anyone suggests you may have influenced their Wills.
4. Can I nominate the Co-op Legal Services to be my Executor?
Yes you can. Co-op Legal Services offers a Professional Executor Service. This is a popular option with people who don't want their loved ones to have to deal with all the legal and financial responsibilities of dealing with your estate after you have gone.
There is no charge to name Co-op Legal Services as an Executor in your Will. If we do act as Executor after you pass away, there is a fixed fee cost which is agreed with your beneficiaries, before carrying out the work involved.
Our fixed fee cost is calculated when you die and is based on the value and complexity of your estate.
5. Do you store my Will for me and what is the cost?
If we write your Will then we will store your Will free for your lifetime. Once it's written you can decide whether to keep it yourself or keep it in our big safe storage facility. Our big safe storage facility is protected by round the clock security with CCTV, kept in a humidity controlled area with fire control systems, intruder alarms and doors locked by electronic keypads too. This means your Will stays safe from harm until it's needed – free of charge.
6. What happens to my Will when I die?
We recommend that you tell your Executor where your Will is kept. You may want to give them a copy of your Will whilst you are able. When you die, your Executor will need to locate your original Will.
If your Will is held by Co-op Legal Services then your Executor will need to contact us to inform us that you have passed away. We can then arrange to get your original Will out of our big safe storage facility.
Once we have your Will back, we will confirm the identity of the Executor. We will then offer free help and guidance to make sure they know what their responsibilities are, and offer our professional assistance if needed.
7. Can my Will be challenged?
Yes - all Wills can be challenged. Nothing can prevent someone from trying to invalidate it. The real question is 'Can my Will be successfully challenged?' and this really does depend.
If your Will includes your nearest relatives and dependents such as your husband, wife or civil partner and your children, there is little reason why your Will should be challenged. But, if you exclude someone who might expect to benefit from your Will, or there is a suggestion that you do not have mental capacity or have been influenced or coerced whilst making your Will, then there is a real possibility your Will could be challenged.
You can try to avoid any disharmony by talking to your family and loved ones about your Will. This is particularly important if you are going to exclude them. This prevents questions about your motivation after you've died. Alternatively, you could write a letter to your Executors which sets out the reasons why you've excluded a particular person from the Will. This letter can be stored with your Will.
8. How do I choose a Guardian for my children?
There are some important considerations to make when choosing a Guardian for your children. Your first consideration should be what is in the best interests of the children. Ask yourself who would raise your children in a way you would approve of? You may also want to consider their moral, ethical and religious beliefs.
Your next consideration is the location of the Guardian. Do they live nearby? Would your children have to change schools or leave their friends? Would you want your children to move at an already difficult time? These are some of the main considerations, but you can find out more by reading How to Choose a Guardian for Your Children.
9. Can I use my Will to save Inheritance Tax?
97% of estates do not have to pay Inheritance Tax, so your first step is to understand whether the value of your estate may exceed the Inheritance Tax threshold which is currently £325,000 for an individual and £650,000 for a married couple.
There are limited opportunities to save money on Inheritance Tax in your Will. Generally speaking, an exemption is available if you leave your estate to your spouse or civil partner, or registered charities or major political parties.
If you're leaving your estate to anyone else, such as your children and other relatives then there is no immediate reduction in the Inheritance Tax liability.
If you want to tax plan to reduce your Inheritance Tax exposure, this is best done throughout your lifetime rather than in your Will.
10. Can I use my Will to protect against care fees?
It's possible. If you are a couple, you may be able to protect all or part of your estate by using a Trust in your Will. It is a specialised area and is vital you get professional Will Writing advice to ensure it is appropriate for your circumstances, for more information see Wills and Care Home Fees.
At Co-op Legal Services we offer fixed price Will writing so you know exactly how much it will cost you to make a Will. We will agree our fee with you upfront before any works starts. Once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work to be done, that price will not change.
As part of the Co-op, our values of openness, honesty, social responsibility and caring for others are core to the service we provide. Our customers consistently rate the quality of our legal advice and services at 4.4 out of 5 stars. See customer testimonials for our Will writers.
We make the Will writing process easy. Call us on 01618558360 or contact us online and we will help you.