Having a Will means it will be simpler for your chosen executors to administer your estate after your death and in line with your specific wishes.
If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed in line with the Rules of Intestacy, rather than how you may have wished to have it distributed.
A well-drafted Will by a Wills solicitor can reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) your estate may incur, for example by taking advantage of the nil-rate band transfer, charitable, agricultural or business property relief. Some professions are exempt from paying IHT, such as firefighters, members of the Armed Forces and Police officers; a specialist solicitor will be able to advise you on this and draft your Will accordingly.
If you have children and need to appoint a guardian, or if you want to leave specific items or pecuniary gifts to particular people, then a Will is especially important to make clear your wishes.
Whom Should I Name as Executor?
The executor will carry out the administration and distribution of your estate in accordance with your Will and the Law. You can name a single executor or a number of executors, although there is usually no more than four executors. For most people, the obvious choice is a spouse, adult children or other relatives. Sometimes people will name their children as executors in the hope of bringing them closer together and ending a long-running dispute between the adult children. Sadly, this rarely works, and can actually increase hostilities between the adult children; in some cases, it can delay the distribution of the estate significantly. In situations like this, it is far better to appoint an independent executor, such as close and trusted friend, an accountant or a probate solicitor. It is worth remembering that a professional acting as executor is very likely to charge for their time spent on executor duties; you should always agree their fee in advance. If you intend to set up trusts for beneficiaries under 18, it is usual for the executors to become the trustees.
Can I leave instructions for my funeral wishes in my Will?
Yes, you can, or you could specify your funeral preferences in a Letter of Wishes, which is a document attached to the Will. It is better to talk to your family and friends first about any preferences as it will help them to understand your choices when the time comes to arrange your funeral, and they can make sure that you receive the farewell you would like.
Setting out your preferred instructions will also save your family from having to make decisions during a difficult time. Writing down your preferences can also help prevent arguments over funeral arrangements, including what happens, where and when. It can be very reassuring for loved ones to know that the plans they are arranging are what you would have wanted.
However, it is important to know that any such instructions are not legally binding, as your executors will be the ones who ultimately decide on what sort of a funeral you have. You could write out a separate document detailing your funeral choices. Make sure they are aware of where this is so that they can access it and follow the instructions regarding your funeral when the time comes.
Can I leave my Estate to my Pet?
Animals do not have the legal capacity to own property or open bank accounts and can’t legally receive an inheritance. You can choose to leave the pet in the care of a named person – someone you trust to take the best care of your beloved pet. You could also leave money (or property) to that person to enable them to provide the proper care and lifestyle for your pet. You could choose to leave the remainder of your estate to a preferred charity or animal shelter/rescue centre. However, if you have children or other close relatives, then it is likely that they may choose to contest a Will that leaves everything to a pet or animal charity.
Can I DIY my Will?
In very straightforward circumstances, such as if you're leaving your entire estate to your spouse or only adult child or if your financial situation is not complex, it is possible that a “DIY” Will can be sufficient. However, there are many ways in which using a DIY Will could cause problems – for example, the Will could be invalid if the wording is incorrect or not witnessed properly, you may end up paying more in IHT than is necessary, and the instructions regarding gifts to beneficiaries may be unclear. While the low cost of a DIY Will may seem attractive, it could end up costing your family much more when they come to deal with your estate.
If your estate is likely to be subject to Inheritance Tax, has more than one beneficiary, may be challenged by a family member not included in the Will, includes property abroad, or includes business or overseas investments or bank accounts, then it is most definitely not a good idea to write your own Will.
When Should I update my Will?
The usual advice is to review your Will every 5 years, and definitely after any major life changes such as having a child, getting married, getting a divorce, the death of a close family member, moving house, obtaining an inheritance, or after a substantial change in your financial situation. You don’t need to write a new Will each time you review it; you could add a Codicil which is a legally binding amendment to an existing Will. If the change is significant, such as a divorce or a second marriage, it is wise to have an entirely new Will written up.
How Do I find a Good Wills Solicitor?
As can be seen, writing up a Will is crucial so that you can make sure your estate is administered in the way you want, and a professional Wills solicitor can help ensure that your Will is written up correctly so that issues are unlikely to arise further down the line. Finding a specialist Wills solicitor who is right for you is easy with Oratto. We can connect you with one of our specialist Wills solicitors who can offer legal advice and write up your Will according to your wishes.
Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.