Guide to making a will
It can be daunting to think about preparing a will, but it need not be complicated, and it acts as insurance against family argument or the break up of the personal and business assets that you have carefully built up during your life.
Why make a will
a) Without a will the intestacy rules apply, which means that blood relatives may inherit your estate who you had not intended, even if you are married.
b) You can ensure that people you trust look after your affairs after your death, including guardians if you have children under the age of 18.
c) By clearly recording your wishes you can avoid expensive litigation.
d) You can ensure that you do not pay tax unnecessarily.
e) You can leave gifts to your partner, step children, friends and charities.
f) You can set up trusts to protect the people you love, whether they are your spouse, young children, disabled or elderly relatives.
What happens on intestacy
a) Under the intestacy rules a cohabiting partner receives nothing on your death, instead your parents or if they are dead your siblings inherit.
b) If you are married but your estate is worth more than £250,000 then your spouse shares the estate with children, only receiving an income in half the remainder.
c) If there are no children and your estate is worth more than £450,000 your spouse shares the remainder with your parents or siblings.
How to make a will
Under English law a will must be in writing and signed by the person creating the will in front of two witnesses, all present at the same time. There must be no doubt as to what your intentions are, so the will must very carefully drafted to ensure that it will be valid and stand up to any claims. Your solicitor can advise what should and should not be included to reflect your individual circumstances.
If there is possibility that a person lacks the mental capacity to create a will, either because of age or illness, then it is essential that the legal guidelines for taking instructions and signing of the will are followed. There are many legal cases concerning what happens if this process is not properly carried out, which could mean that a will is declared wholly or partially invalid.
Even if you already have a will it is worth reviewing it to make sure it still reflects your wishes and current legislation.
If you are interested in discussing making a will please see How Vardags can help with making a will.