The short answer is a resounding ‘Yes, of course!’ but there are many reasons why having a professional, up to date will is important. And it’s not all about the money. A will can reduce the stress of dealing with legal issues for your family after you’re gone and ensure they are looked after when you’re gone.
There are four main elements to making a will:
- Naming executors:
When you make a will you will need to appoint executors to handle the financial issues of your will – someone you trust to deal with the distribution of your estate and legal affairs, such as a family member, friend, or your solicitor.
- Distributing assets:
Your estate comprises any savings, property, businesses, investments, pensions, insurance and possessions you choose to include. These assets can then be bequeathed to specific people, organisations or charities in your will.
It’s worth noting that unmarried couples and step-children do not automatically inherit under intestacy rules (which come into action if someone doesn’t have a will), so it’s vital that you clearly name your beneficiaries. It’s also important to detail your wishes for the distribution of any property in joint names and any businesses where you are the sole director in order to protect any tenants in common and staff.
- Providing for dependents:
Any children under the age of 18 will need to be looked after by someone with ‘parental responsibility’. This means that you will need to appoint a suitable guardian for your children in the event of your death. You will also need to allocate assets towards the support of any dependents until they reach the age of 18. Without a will, it will be up to the court to decide who takes responsibility for your children. If you are married, your partner will automatically become your children’s sole guardian, but this is not necessarily true for step-parents or unmarried couples, where the guardianship rights of fathers is not guaranteed unless it has been legally stated by the mother. In all cases, it’s best to think carefully about who you would like to take care of your children if the worst should happen, and make arrangements in your will.
- Reducing inheritance tax:
If you do not leave a will, intestacy laws will dictate how your estate is distributed, which is likely to result in a higher proportion of your assets paid towards inheritance tax. Your solicitor will be able to help you legally minimise the amount of inheritance tax you have to pay and ensure that your wishes are carried out according to your instructions.
Once you’ve made a will, it’s essential to keep it updated whenever there are major changes in your life, for example: if you get married, separate from your partner, have or adopt children/grandchildren, purchase property, or experience any other significant change in circumstances.
For more advice and information on making a will, probate arrangements, or setting up power of attorney, speak to the friendly team at Frances Lindsay & Co. We have over 50 years’ experience in handling wills and probate in the Thames Valley area, and our services cover Beaconsfield, Maidenhead, Henley, Gerrards Cross, High Wycombe, Windsor and Marlow. Visit us at www.franceslindsay.co.uk or call 01628 634667 to make an appointment.Tags: wills and probate