5 Things to Think about Before Making a Will
09 November 2016
Making a Will may seem a daunting prospect. Unless you’ve written a Will before or taken some professional advice already, you’re unlikely to know where to start.
When you first start to think about making a Will you might immediately think about what you currently own and who you would like to inherit once you’ve died. That’s not a bad place to start. Here are 5 areas you should think about and a recommended approach to take:
What Have I Got to Leave?
It’s really important to recognise that, although you’re making your Will now, your Will only comes into effect once you’ve died. That means that your Will deals with your belongings (property, bank accounts, personal possessions etc.) that you own at the time of your death and not at the time you write your Will.
So even if you don't have much to leave now, your financial situation could change significantly in the future, particularly if you expect to have paid off your mortgage or are likely to receive an inheritance from a relative at some point.
Who Do I Want to Inherit My Estate?
It can be fairly obvious to some people who they want they want to benefit from their Will, this could, for example, be a spouse or perhaps their children. It’s important to also consider who you would like to inherit if your first choice beneficiary has already died before you. In some circumstances this may be highly unlikely (particularly if they are younger than you) but it’s worth recognising that it’s always a possibility.
Some people may think that if an unexpected event occurs then they’ll just update their Will accordingly. This may be possible, however, it may not. What if you are involved in an accident with the beneficiary and die at similar times? You’re not going to be in a position to update your Will – it’s too late. Therefore a well drafted Will should also cater for this circumstance to ensure you wishes are clear even if the unexpected happens.
Children Under 18 Years Old
If you are making a Will at a time when you have children under 18 there are two main considerations. Firstly, if the children are going to be named as beneficiaries in your Will you can stipulate what age you would like them to inherit. Typically this is 18, 21 or 25 years of age but there are no rules around this other than they must be at least 18. In these circumstances consider how much they are likely to inherit and whether you would be comfortable with them having access to that sort of money at your chosen age.
The second aspect is considering who you would want to look after the children if they are under 18 when you die. In your Will you can choose a legal guardian to carry out this role. The appointment of a legal guardian will take effect provided that there is no-one else who already has the legal responsibility to look after them. For example, a surviving parent may be able to do this, however, what if both parents died together? What would you want to happen in those circumstances?
Who Will Deal with My Estate after I Die?
Immediately after you’ve died, if you had banks accounts or owned property, these are still in your name. However, someone needs to have the legal authority to deal with things you owned and distribute your estate to the beneficiaries. This person is called your Executor and they are chosen by you when you write your Will but they only act in this role after you’ve died.
An Executor is a very responsible position as they are going to be trusted to wind up many aspects of your life such as making sure that your money, personal possessions and property are dealt with correctly, that all relevant taxes are paid and that any debts have been settled from your estate. It normally takes about 9 months to administer a deceased person’s estate however this can vary depending upon the complexity of your assets and whether you have a well written Will.
How Do I Get My Will Written?
You can try and write your Will yourself or you can pay a professional Will writer to write it for you. The main benefit of using a professional Will writing service like Co-op Legal Services is peace of mind knowing that your Will is going to be written in a way that is recognised by the law.
It also gives you the opportunity to ask questions so that you fully understand what your options are. For example, it may be in the best, long-term interests of your loved ones to set up a Trust as part of your Will.
At Co-op Legal Services our professional Will writers make the Will writing process easy for you. We will take the time to listen to your circumstances, and then advise you on the most appropriate way to structure your Will in order to meet your needs and make sure everything is covered. It’s not always obvious.
Making a Will yourself is clearly not going to cost you much, but if you get it wrong, then it could potentially cost your loved ones thousands of pounds in legal fees to sort things out.