Making a Will isn’t Just about Who Gets Your Assets
26 July 2019
It's a common misconception that making a Will is just about deciding who will inherit what from you when you die. But there's actually much more to it than this. This article looks at how you can use your Will to take care of more than just your assets.
Making Things Simpler for Your Loved Ones
A commonly overlooked but incredibly significant benefit of making a Will is that it can make matters far more straight forward for your loved ones after you die. If you make a Will that clearly sets out your wishes, then this reduces the risk of any uncertainty after you die and, in turn, reduces the risk of disagreements, upset and confusion for your loved ones.
While a Will is an effective tool for ensuring that your Estate is distributed to the correct people in the correct way, did you know that you can also use your Will to make things simpler for your loved ones in other ways too?
Firstly, you can include a Letter of Wishes alongside your Will to explain exactly why you've chosen to distribute your Estate in the way that you have. This can help them to understand your motives after you die and reduce the risk of conflict arising between family members.
Secondly, you can set out your funeral wishes so that your loved ones know exactly what to do when the time comes. You can provide as much or as little guidance as you choose, even down to what flowers you would like! This can help to avoid any uncertainty for your family when arranging your funeral, and can be particularly helpful if two different family members have conflicting ideas on what you would have wanted.
Deciding Who Administers Your Estate
If you die without a valid Will in place, then the law will determine not only who should inherit from you, but also who is entitled to administer your Estate. This will usually be the same person who is recognised as the main beneficiary of your Estate.
Administering the Estate of a deceased person can involve a lot of work and this role carries a significant amount of responsibility. The person who carries out the work is responsible for administering the Estate in line with inheritance laws and they are also responsible for calculating and paying any tax that's due as well as settling outstanding debts with creditors. If any mistakes are made during this process, then this individual can be held personally liable for these mistakes. For more information, see Executor / Administrator Duties Explained.
For this reason, many people want to appoint a particular person in this role. When you make a Will, you can name one or more Executors, and these will be the people responsible for administering your Estate after you die. You can choose who to appoint based on who you think will be willing and able to take on this role, and you can have a conversation with them before you name them in your Will to ensure that they are happy to do so.
You can appoint two or more Executors to act jointly, or you can appoint a sole Executor, although we would always recommend appointing a substitute Executor in these circumstances.
Supporting a Charity
Without a Will, none of your Estate will automatically be donated to charity. Charities rely heavily on gifts in Wills to provide them with the vital funds they need to continue their work.
So, if you want to support a particular cause, you can choose to leave a gift to charity in your Will. This can either be a specific item, a specific sum of money or a percentage of what's left in your Estate once all debts and other expenses have been settled. You can choose just one charity, or you can leave any number of gifts to multiple charities – it's entirely up to you.
If you do leave gifts to charities in your Will, this can reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that your Estate has to pay. This is because charities are exempt beneficiaries, meaning gifts to them are not liable for Inheritance Tax.
Looking After Your Children
If you have children under the age of 18, do you know how they would be cared for in the event of your and their other parent's death? Without a Will, it would be up to the authorities to determine who should take care of your children in your absence.
When you make a Will, you can appoint legal guardians for your children. This means that in the event of your death, these individuals can take responsibility for the care of your children. Again, we would always recommend having a conversation with your chosen guardian(s) before making your Will to ensure that they are willing and able to take on this role if the need arises.